By Guest Columnist TAIFA BUTLER, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
Georgians can find a lot not to like in the federal budget President Trump is proposing. It jeopardizes the state’s financial stability. It promises to hurt the ability of millions of Georgians to meet basic living standards. Even Social Security disability benefits are slashed in the planned budget cuts.
Nearly 31 percent of Georgia’s 2018 budget recently signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal relies on federal contributions. The state is consistently among the most reliant on federal funding. Only seven states depend more on federal funds to support core safety net programs, supplement education funding, child welfare, senior services, health care and more.
More than 2 million Georgians, including 1.3 million children, receive health coverage from Medicaid and federal taxpayers cover two-thirds of that cost. About 1.6 million Georgians rely on critical food assistance programs and the federal government pays that entire bill. An additional $2.4 billion in federal money provides support services to Georgia’s K-12 students and another $1.6 billion helps fix our roads and bridges.
So Georgia stands to lose more than most states if anything resembling the proposed radical budget cuts take effect.
The president’s budget proposal slashes nutrition, health care, and other important assistance that helps millions of Georgians. At the same time it hands new tax breaks to the wealthy and dramatically increases defense spending. It also proposes a massive cost shift to the state of Georgia and is likely to force deep cuts to programs relied on by nearly every Georgian. Those range from food assistance, to health care to neighborhood revitalization, education and just about every service in between.
Here are some ways the president’s proposed budget places Georgians at risk:
- It slashes food assistance for poor children and their parents by cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $193 billion over ten years and shifts 25 percent of the cost of the program to the states. A similar shift in 2016 would have cost Georgia nearly $670 million to deliver the same level of food assistance. Georgia is likely to find it hard to absorb that cost, which would mean benefit cuts for the seniors, children in working families and workers struggling to find a job.
- It cuts $600 billion from Medicaid over 10 years. This is on top of the deep cuts in Medicaid and subsidies for private coverage already included in a bill to unravel the Affordable Care Act the U.S. Senate’s agenda. If these added cuts are imposed they’ll almost surely lead to an increase in uninsured Georgians and a significant shift of Medicaid costs to Georgia. That’s on top of the $4 billion cost shift to the state over ten years already in the proposed federal health law remake.
- It cuts $72 billion from programs that serve people with disabilities and their families, including Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. These provide income assistance to the poor, including children with disabilities. Proposing this cut breaks the president’s promise not to cut Social Security. Last December 259,000 Georgians relied on Supplemental Security Income, a group of poor workers and children with disabilities. Another 285,000 Georgians count on the disability insurance, which protects workers whose careers are shortened by severe medical impairments.
At the same time, the president is proposing massive tax cuts largely for the wealthy and corporations likely to take several trillion dollars out of the budget over the coming decade. The proposal employs a series of budget gimmicks and accounting tricks attempt to mask the fact that the tax cuts are likely to cause deficits and debt to soar.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Georgia communities struggle to make it day to day. Many are able to manage with the help of food stamps, Medicaid coverage or Social Security’s disability benefits. Slashing federal spending at levels contemplated in the president’s budget plan will deliver a budget crisis for Georgia communities across the state.
It threatens pain to people in big cities, home to Georgia’s safety-net hospitals. And it promises to pull the rug out from people in Georgia’s countryside where the state’s economic vitality is more rumor than reality.
Georgians need the state’s Congressional delegation to stop this train wreck from happening while they still have time.