Stewart, Bishop on president’s proposed budget; Hatch addresses Senate Finance Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch remarked on the president’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget proposal, calling its lack of seriousness unfortunate, irresponsible and embarrassingly predictable. Congressmen Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop also issued statements on the budget Tuesday, and Hatch addressed the Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday morning on the matter.

Stewart also felt the budget fell short, and like Hatch noted the $8.3 trillion it adds to the nation’s debt. He said:
While I am still in the process of fully reviewing the President’s proposed budget – it obviously falls short. Not only does his proposal increase total spending by 63 percent and add $8.3 trillion to our debt over the next 10 years, it also proposes $1.8 trillion in increased taxes. This is not the right direction for our country. A bigger, more intrusive government – which this budget proposes — is not going to spur our economy and create jobs. Instead, we must carefully prioritize spending and tackle the drivers of our debt, ultimately creating a better America for future generations.

Bishop approved the budget’s support for wildland fire fighting needs, but was concerned with other aspects of the budget including its effect of reducing military assets, increased taxation for energy producers, and cuts to NASA programs, among others. He said:

This budget will be a useful campaign tool for some Democrats, and after reviewing it, I am confident that is its intended purpose. However, it is possible, even within this politically motivated budget, to find a small but important silver lining. I was pleased to see the President support proposals to fund suppression of the most severe forest fire activity. Wildfire has plagued the West and often, during extraordinary circumstances, funding needs can grow beyond the federal funding caps.

I am particularly concerned by the recommendation for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to receive $900 million, 64 percent of which would go toward land acquisition. The federal government already fails to keep up with management on the 650 million acres it already owns. This is further compounded by the fact that the President’s budget woefully underfunds Payment in Lieu of Taxes, something that affects Utah and other western public lands states. Apparently he views acquisition of more land as a greater priority than supporting counties and states that struggle to fund essential services and infrastructure. This is just one of many examples of misplaced priorities within the budget.

If the President’s proposal were to be enacted, it would mean new taxes and fees for our nation’s energy producers and would require our military personnel to shoulder 27 percent more in health care costs.  We do not recruit and sustain the finest all-volunteer military force in the world by continuing to nickel and dime them and their families to death even as we call on them to sacrifice so much abroad in defense of our country.

As our military’s aging fleet of aircraft struggle to keep pace with new technological advancements occurring around the world, the President’s budget would further reduce the number of F-35 aircraft that will be built in FY15 by eight. Such actions would delay the program and drive up costs. Further reducing our air capabilities, the President proposes to cut the A-10 Warthog aircraft. The A-10 has proven to be effective in providing close air support for our troops. With nothing comparable to take its place, this will further hollow out our defense capabilities. As the President proposes a plan to weaken U.S. defense systems, other countries like China and Russia continue to bolster their air and ground capabilities.  Right now, China and Russia are modernizing and advancing missile defense technologies, whereas funding to modernize the U.S. ballistic missile defense system is missing from the budget.

Under President Obama’s leadership, America is getting left behind on many fronts. His budget also proposes cuts to NASA’s Space Launch System by $331 million but increases funding for commercial space technology by nearly the same amount.  With the President’s untimely cancellation of NASA’s manned space exploration program, and our subsequent reliance on Russia to get to space, it seems irresponsible to lose sight of supporting America’s core rocket technology capabilities.  Relying on Russia for anything seems dangerous on a good day, but especially today with the deterioration of U.S.-Russia political relations.

This budget is concerning on many fronts beyond the aforementioned. However, I am confident that the House will carefully scrutinize these recommendations as we work to develop a responsible budget that supports and advances the interests and priorities of the hardworking American people.

Hatch’s address to the Senate Finance Committee hearing examining the president’s budget proposal with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Wednesday follows:

To begin, I’d like to note some problems with the process by which this proposed budget has been unveiled.

First of all, we received this budget just yesterday, a full month past the statutory deadline.

And, what budget information we did receive yesterday is incomplete.

For example, when you look at the appendix of the budget, there is often reference to a section called “Analytical Perspectives,” but those perspectives are nowhere to be found.

I assume that the rest of the budget information is forthcoming.  Still, we can only wonder why it is being released a few pieces at a time.

The administration appears to be approaching this hearing in the same way, as we did not receive Secretary Lew’s written testimony until late last night, which was less than helpful.

When we get past the process issues and into the substance of the President’s budget, we see that the administration appears to be short on new ideas.  Indeed, this budget consists largely of proposals from President Obama’s past budgets, which is surprising given that none of them have received a single affirmative vote in Congress.

These proposals represent a continuation of three familiar themes.

First, we see the administration’s continued insistence that we can achieve prosperity by adopting more tax-and-spend policies that grow the federal government.

Second, there are the proposals centered on the apparent belief that even more income redistribution will somehow lead to economic growth and job creation.

And, finally, we see another attempt to define “tax reform” as a process of raising taxes in order to fuel more federal spending while closing whatever the administration deems to be a “loophole” in the tax code.

Based, in part, on rosy economic assumptions, the administration believes that its proposals will reduce our high debt-to-GDP ratio.  But, to get there – and to help fulfill its tax-and-spend objectives – the budget envisions well over $1 trillion of additional taxes in the face of a persistently sluggish economy.

That bears repeating: President Obama’s latest budget contains more than a trillion dollars in proposed tax hikes.

The administration claims – as it has for years now – that these additional revenues are needed to restore fiscal responsibility and reduce the deficit as part of a quote-unquote balanced approach.

However, we need to look at the facts.

Let’s consider the deficit reduction that has occurred since the high-deficit watermark achieved in Fiscal Year 2009.  From the deficit of over $1.4 trillion in that year, the deficit fell to a still-high $680 billion in Fiscal Year 2013.  Of the $736 billion of deficit reduction, $670 billion came from increased revenue and only $66 billion came from reduced outlays.

So, in terms of budget realizations, rather than promises for the future, less than nine percent of the deficit reduction between 2009 and 2013 came from reductions in spending.  The vast majority came from increased revenue.

Yet, remarkably, in the face of that history, the administration’s insatiable desire for higher taxes leads it to propose more tax hikes along with even more spending.

Put simply, the tax hikes envisioned in the President’s budget are not what our struggling economy needs.

Unfortunately, while having pledged to focus like a laser on jobs, this administration decided over the past five years to focus on expanding government with a failed stimulus, the Affordable Care Act, and initiatives like the Dodd-Frank Act that is growing the big banks and shrinking community banks.

None of those efforts laid a foundation for economic growth.  And, sadly, the budget offered this week does not present a vision for such growth in the future.

Instead, this budget proposal appears to be a political document, designed to shore up support from the President’s left-leaning base in an election year. This, needless to say, is disappointing given all the real challenges our nation continues to face.

As you can see, Mr. Chairman, we have a lot to discuss today when it comes to the proposals in this budget. And, there are other issues at the Treasury Department that also warrant our attention today.

For example, I find it incredible that, even with all the challenges our nation is facing, the Treasury Department has decided to place the singling out of 501(c)(4) organizations for scrutiny near the top of its administrative agenda.

As with the budget, it appears that politics are driving the decision making when it comes to promulgating regulations through Treasury.  In my view, it would be useful for the administration to focus more on growth in the economy and jobs than on how the President’s party will fare in the next election. With those concerns in mind, I look forward to today’s hearing. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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1 Comment

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