Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NCC Campaign Proposes to Preserve Funding for Human Needs Programs by Reducing Subsidies for Fossil Fuels

The National Council of Churches (NCC) is promoting the Faithful Budget, Faithful Stewardship campaign, which urges Congress to place a priority on human needs. 

But the effort, led by the NCC's Climate Change and Energy Campaign, also recognizes that we have to address our budget deficit,

To attain both objectives, the campaign proposes that revenues could be obtained by reducing subsidies for fossil fuels to energy companies (which currently total about US$10.7 billion) and using the money for five important programs: The Childern's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Head Start and local water infrastructure projects.

What are the examples of subsidies that would be cut? There are $46 million in direct subsidies for oil, gas and coal; $4.13 billion in targeted tax breaks;  $6 billion in general tax expenditures, and the rest in external subsidies.  Reducing the subsidies would result in minimal costs to the consumers and help provide revenues for much-needed human-needs programs.

There is more specific information in a booklet that the NCC published to promote the campaign. (Click here to download)

Here is the introduction:
Faithful Budget, Faithful Stewardship: Budgets are moral documents and Christians are called to advocate for an allocation of resources that protects all of God’s people as well as God’s creation. This analysis lays out the current subsidies being given to unsustainable fossil fuel production, and describes the opportunities for improvements in assistance for low income people, health insurance for children and water infrastructure if the subsidies for destructive and polluting industries ended
The NCC has put together information about how the campaign affects different states.  Below is the information for New Mexico.

Faithful Budget, Faithful Stewardship: The Impact of Federal Poverty Assistance Programs in New Mexico

In Faithful Budget, Faithful Stewardship 10.17 billion dollars of fossil fuel subsidies are revealed and contrasted with the cost of maintaining poverty assistance programs at their current levels. New Mexico taxpayers account for approximately 55.5 million dollars of subsidies, or 27 dollars per person. (1)

If the proposed budget cuts to various poverty assistance programs are passed this is the impact it will have on New Mexico:
  • CHIP: In New Mexico, 15.5 percent of children are currently uninsured (2). New Mexico has received performance awards for increasing chip enrollment in all three years that they have been available: 4.97 million dollars in 2011, 8.53 million dollars in 2010, and 5.37 million dollars in 2009 (3)
  • WIC: New Mexico’s WIC program served 64,304 people in 2011, at an average benefit of 59 dollars per month (4). According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, New Mexico would have to turn away 4,700 people from its women, infants, and children program if the House cuts were to go into effect (5).
  • LIHEAP: New Mexico is facing a cut of 7.45 million dollars from 2010 levels of funding. To make up that gap New Mexico could either cut benefits by 32.2 percent or turn away 24,131 families (6).
  • Head Start: New Mexico would face a cut of 7.57 million, resulting in 1,000 fewer children being enrolled in Head Start if the 14 percent cut voted for by the House of Representatives were distributed evenly across the states (7). The average salary of a Head Start teacher is 21,000 (8).
  • Water Infrastructure: The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that New Mexico needs to spend 54.1 million a year for the next 20 years to update its water infrastructure. (9) 
(1) Based on New Mexico’s percent of U.S. population (0.67 percent) and income level (81.5 percent). Source: U.S. Census Bureau
(2) from Children's Defense Fund
(3) from statehealthfacts
(4) Enrollment data from WIC and funding data from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service 
(5) from Center on Budget Policy and Priorities
(6) LIHEAP 2012 funding:  2010 Funding
(7) Based on data from Department of Health and Human Services
(8) Article from National Institute for Early Education Research
(9) from American Society of Civil Engineers

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