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Reform Movement Responds to President's Budget

Pelavin: "President Obama has made difficult choices, and it is not surprising that in so complex a document, we find aspects worthy of applause and others demanding significant improvement."

Contact: Eric Harris or Barbara Weinstein
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 16, 2011 -- In response to the President's FY 2012 budget released this week, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Rarely has a president released a budget in such challenging times: two wars, a weak economy, and years of tax breaks for the wealthy have left our nation facing extraordinarily tough budgetary decisions. In such times, it is particularly incumbent on us to ensure that our federal budget reflects the government's responsibilities to all its citizens, especially those most in need. President Obama has made difficult choices, and it is not surprising that in so complex a document, we find aspects worthy of applause and others demanding significant improvement.

First and foremost, we welcome the President's commitment to ending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the most wealthy Americans. We support tax policy that reflects our deep Jewish commitment to the achievement of a just society in which all people can live with dignity and respect. The reduced revenue under the tax cuts has had a sustained and detrimental impact on the government's ability to fund vital programs in all areas and has contributed to the record breaking deficit.

We also welcome the restoration of funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cut last year to pay for Child Nutrition Reauthorization; the $200 million increase for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act state grants to provide high quality education and help offset state and local education costs for children with disabilities; an expansion of drug treatment and prisoner re-entry programs; and investments in building efficiency programs and tax credits for energy efficient buildings, while also eliminating certain tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.

It is with particular appreciation that we applaud the President's commitment to Title X family planning programs that are currently under attack by some in Congress. By proposing $10 million more in funding over last year's Title X budget request, and maintaining funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, President Obama has upheld our shared commitment to ensuring the health and well being of Americans in every state.

Finally, we note with gratitude the inclusion of $3.075 billion in aid to Israel, reflecting the terms of the 2007 US-Israel agreement to increase foreign aid through 2013 and continue at that amount through 2018. We welcome this aid increase as a continued demonstration of support for Israel, a commitment to democracy in the Middle East, and an investment in the U.S. economy, thanks to the more than 75% of US aid to Israel that is eventually spent on goods and services in the US.

At the same time, we are deeply concerned by cuts that will leave the most vulnerable Americans with less assistance in this time of need. Among these cuts is a fifty percent reduction in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that keeps families warm in the coldest months. We are also disheartened by the 12 percent cut to the EPA budget, even as some in Congress are seeking to strip EPA authority to regulate greenhouses gases that are a leading cause of climate change; the ongoing funding for the DC school vouchers program, which some House and Senate members are working to expand; and the investment in nuclear weapons research and production despite the President's pledge to work toward a nuclear weapon-free world.

We continue to believe that the budget is a moral document, reflecting our national priorities and values. We look forward to debate and consideration of the President's budget in Congress and opportunities to enhance funding for the most vital programs that strengthen our nation today and in the future.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.



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