February 25, 2007
Beginning in the mid-1990s, welfare reform accelerated the funding of entitlement programs by means of capped block grants, shifting responsibility for national anti-poverty programs to cash-strapped states. In addition, the tax cuts passed by Congress since 2001 have resulted in fewer federal dollars available to states, forcing state governments to cut Medicaid, senior programs, child care assistance, and education while providing little if any benefit to middle- and low-income taxpayers.
This devolution, shifting federal responsibilities to state governments, has been exacerbated in many states by draconian proposals, often in the form of ballot initiatives that further undermine the ability to address critical human needs, particularly safety-net services that protect the well-being of the most vulnerable citizens. These proposals include so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) initiatives aimed at imposing unreasonable limits on state spending and forcing severe reductions in government services (in the November 2006 elections, TABOR initiatives were on the ballot in Maine, Nevada, Nebraska and Oregon). Additionally, there have been proposals to change the tax code to allow for additional deductions, primarily benefiting the wealthiest at the expense of the neediest.
At the federal level, some advocate pay-as-you-go proposals whereby program funding increases would have to be offset by funding cuts, while tax cuts would not have to be similarly offset. Also, proposals for a fixed deficit target would trigger automatic across-the-board cuts in entitlement spending if targets are not met.
Commensurate with the JCPA’s Confronting Poverty initiative, the community relations field should:
- Oppose those state or federal tax measures and budget procedures that would restrict or impede funding for vital social services;
- Oppose Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) and other initiatives that threaten to paralyze state governments’ ability to provide essential services;
- Continue to work to ensure that social services and public education are fully funded;
Urge the federal government to reexamine block grant formulas to insure that states receive adequate