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Reform Jewish Movement Criticizes House of Representatives' Budget that Does Not Meet Needs of Average Americans

Contact: Alexis Rice or Sheryl Shapiro
202.387.2800

Pelavin: With more than eight million Americans out of work since January, we must improve our schools, provide health care to our children, and shrink the gap between those looking for affordable housing and the number of affordable units available-yet the House-passed budget will hamper efforts in all these areas.

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2004 - In response to the U.S. House of Representatives' narrow passage of its Fiscal Year 2005 budget resolution conference report, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

    Last week, House Members approved a budget conference report that would saddle future generations with enormous deficits and cut funding for the very programs most needed by low-income Americans. We urge Senators to reject these detrimental spending guidelines.

    The conference report's one-year budget would cut funding for vital domestic programs depended on by American families, including public housing, child care, and nutritional assistance for women, infants and children, while paving the way for $55.2 billion in tax cuts this year, and massive tax cuts in future years. The budget projects reductions in desperately needed funding for elementary and secondary education programs and shortchanges the nation's most successful housing assistance program, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, by over $1.3 billion, which could lead to the eviction of more than 200,000 families that rely on the vouchers to meet their housing needs. With more than eight million Americans out of work since January, we must improve our schools, provide health care to our children, and shrink the gap between those looking for affordable housing and the number of affordable units available-yet the House-passed budget will hamper efforts in all these areas.

    We have often observed that the federal budget is the great moral document of our nation, establishing our priorities for the years to come. Yet instead of requiring all tax cuts to be paid for over the next five years, the conference report limits the "pay-as-you-go" rules to a single year and provides an exemption for $27.5 billion in protected tax cuts. This single year provision would facilitate massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in years to come, draining much needed revenue that could strengthen ailing programs for hungry children, uninsured veterans, and minimum wage workers. The budget conference report's three centerpiece tax cuts would also inequitably bestow benefits on the wealthiest individuals; the top fifth of households would receive an average tax cut of $1,380 in 2005 as compared to an average tax cut of $155 for those in the middle fifth of the income spectrum. If these tax cuts are eventually offset through domestic program cuts, most low- and middle-income families would lose significantly more from program reductions than they would gain from these minor tax breaks.

    Jewish tradition affirms our obligation to maintain a safety net for the less fortunate. In Deuteronomy, the Torah commands that we "open our hands to the poor and the needy among us." It is this mandate which compels us to oppose the fiscally irresponsible budget passed by the House and call on the Senate to support only a budget that enables the government to invest in critical programs that benefit Americans of all income levels. Without such leadership, we condemn our children and our children's children to a future in which their government struggles to meet the most basic needs of its citizens.

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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(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis .



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