Obama: Spare education from budget cuts


House Republicans have passed a resolution setting appropriations for the rest of the year at 2008 pre-recession levels, as part of a pledge to cut $100 billion from the budgets of domestic U.S. government agencies.

The vote is largely symbolic, because the actual cuts would have to be made in appropriations bills that would have to clear the Senate, where Democrats still hold a majority.

However, it sets up a showdown in which members of both parties will have to convene to hammer out a compromise—and education might not be spared from the cuts that result.

“There are no sacred cows,” said newly appointed House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

Any cuts to federal spending on education or infrastructure would come at a particularly bad time for local communities, many of which already face the prospect of steep cuts in state funding.

A report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, released last month, says the fiscal crisis reshaping the level of services that government can deliver is likely to last at least another three years for many states.

So far, budget deficits are anticipated for at least 15 states, the report said. Among the hardest-hit states are California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.

In releasing his latest budget proposal, California Gov. Jerry Brown told his state’s lawmakers that “the year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice” as the state faces a deficit projected to hit $25.4 billion over the next 18 months.

His proposal combines spending cuts to Medi-Cal, in-home services for the elderly, and higher education with a five-year extension of income, sales, and vehicle taxes.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanded shutting 20 percent of state agencies as part of “radical reform” to pull his state out its fiscal crisis.

And Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey skipped a $3.1 billion payment to the state’s pension system in a push to cut benefits for public workers, while proposing higher employee contributions and a boost in the retirement age from 62 to 65.

Public education in Texas, meanwhile, is facing billions of dollars in proposed budget cuts that would include slashing college aid, pre-kindergarten programs, and teacher incentive pay as lawmakers take on a massive deficit with the promise of no new taxes.

Texas lawmakers got their first glimpse of what the next state budget might look like on Jan. 18, including a $5 billion cut to public education, as Republican Gov. Rick Perry and his supporters were dancing at an inaugural celebration.

Texas is facing a $15 billion revenue shortfall, and few corners of state government were spared in the draft proposal for the next two years. The Texas Constitution requires a balanced budget, and Republican leaders have vowed not to raise taxes.