Bush budget forces horrific cuts on Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — New Haveners gathered to learn and express growing concerns about the devastation the Bush administration’s federal budget cuts would cause in Connecticut at a Feb. 16 public hearing sponsored by the city of New Haven Peace Commission.

Greg Speeter of National Priorities Project laid the groundwork by showing how the proposed federal cuts will have a negative effect on the state. The budget cuts of $138.1 million for discretionary grants to Connecticut’s state and local governments include $18.9 million for community and economic development, $4.8 million for low-income home energy assistance and $4.7 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The No Child Left Behind Act would remain underfunded by $104.7 million.

Taxpayers in Connecticut would lose services while paying even more for the Pentagon, including $463 million for the proposed increase in military spending and $3.6 billion for what Congress has so far allocated for the war in Iraq.

Speeter asked the audience about their opinions on how federal income tax dollars should be spent. The answers were to spend more money on health care, education, housing and full employment.

Cynthia Newton, director of the New Haven Housing Authority, which oversees the state’s largest public housing system, said employees of the authority will be facing possible 11 percent cuts next year. Newton said she is searching for grants to help make up the shortfall. The federal cuts are an extreme threat to working families, she said. “This housing budget is horrific for housing in New Haven,” said Newton, noting that the cuts are the worst she’s seen in her 30 years of experience.

Representatives of Connecticut Voices for Children, an education and advocacy group, expressed deep concern over the ill effects the cuts will have on children in the state. They urged a letter-writing campaign directed at members of Congress and to the state’s newspapers as a means of opposing President Bush’s harsh agenda.

The Coalition to End Child Poverty in Connecticut gave a powerful presentation on how to end poverty. New Haven is the seventh poorest city in the United States, despite Yale University’s presence. The rich have had an easy time of it when it comes to paying their fair share of taxes, a coalition spokesman said. The coalition proposes a 2 percent tax on the portion of income above $200,000 to pay for an “End Child Poverty Social Investment Fund.”

At the state Capitol, the Select Committee on Children is reviewing proposals from different coalitions on this matter. Delegations from New Haven and Hartford recently went before the committee to give their experiences on how child poverty has affected them. The Connecticut HUSKY program, which provides medical coverage for children and low-income workers, is facing serious cuts.

Ron Manning, deputy for community services for the city of New Haven, said youth employment, homeless shelters, meals on wheels, food stamps and mental health block grants would all be affected.

The Rev. Bonita Grubbs, director of Christian Community Action, suggested that people’s voices need to be heard in Washington. “We have to gear up and mobilize to make sure these cuts do not happen,” she said. Veterans groups, unionists, activists and congregations are key in mobilizing and fighting back against the unjust cuts. “It is time people move upstream and not downstream,” she said. “The only thing we can do is say absolutely no, we don’t want cuts that will devastate children and compromise the state’s ability to function.”