DMI Blog

Maureen Lane

Hurry up for What?

The wrong-headed federal budget reconciliation act hurriedly passed and signed by the president last week is still not reconciled. The vote in early February saw the NY Congressional delegation voting the party line with two Republicans, Sweeney and McHugh, joining the Democrats in voting "no". Sadly, three Republican congresspersons from the NYC area, King, Fossella and Kelly went along with their party and voted for the bad reconciliation.

The bill has welfare law changes that pose restrictions that will provoke needless human suffering and costs the states economically. (More on this in my next blog post but I have touched on this in past blogs) But let's first consider the 12.7 billion dollar cut in federal funding to student loan programs included in this bill. These cuts will make access to a college education even harder for poor, low-income and middle class families.

In Congresswoman Kelly's district, Orange County, almost 70% of State University students receive financial aid. Congresswoman Kelly really does know better than to make higher education costs more prohibitive. . In the past, she has introduced good legislation that would help middle class families deduct all of their education expenses from their taxes. Yet, this time she voted to cut federal programs by $12.7 billion. How can she reconcile this?

Congressman King has dozens of colleges in his district with a great number of students in Nassau and Suffolk county getting aid. Congressman Fossella has CUNY (City University of NY.) colleges in his district where well over 50% of students receive financial aid. Congressman King's Long Island faces a bleak financial future, in part, because of a flat tax base. He understands the need for government money. He and Senator Clinton are working to bring $250 million federal dollars to suburbs like Long Island to help them prosper.

If Long Island, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Westchester or the rest of NY is going to prosper we need to promote more people getting more education not less. The trend in NYS has been increasing poverty over the last few years and this federal reconciliation is not going to stop that trend. Expanding the numbers of people doing well financially in NY should be all of our concern.

Welfare Rights Initiative students met with Congressman Fossella's office before the vote to urge him to reconsider voting yes. We urged him to think about the effects of his vote. WRI students have phenomenal success in moving from welfare to the middle class through education. 88% of the students receiving welfare who are allowed to obtain a college degree move from welfare permanently. Cutting access to higher education needlessly thwarts their success.

There still may be a chance for King, Kelly and Fossella to think outside the party box. We invite them to reconsider their vote. Legislators from both parties expressed distaste for the bill all along the way. We expect our representatives to make careful deliberate policy and laws, not just pass something because they get the "giddy up" from the administration.

We invite NYS legislators on all government levels to work together for the benefit of all New Yorkers. The Budget Reconciliation fiasco is a good place to start doing the right thing.

Maureen Lane: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 10:00 PM, Feb 19, 2006 in Federal Budget | Welfare | public services
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