Canton Repository

November 19, 2005

Spending bill to trim $50B

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Rep. Bob Ney broke from GOP ranks in voting against spending cuts Friday as Sen. George Voinovich took similar action in opposing Republican-supported tax cuts.

Rep. Ralph Regula, the area’s other Republican lawmaker, joined the majority in his party to approve almost $50 billion in spending cuts over five years. The measure passed 217-215.

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, voted with the majority in his party to approve a five-year, $60 billion tax cut package.

The House-passed bill, which GOP leaders say would reduce the federal deficit, would curb the growing costs of medical care for the poor, food stamps and student loan subsidies, among other programs.

Ney, R-Heath, said he opposed the bill because of a provision that would repeal a trade law that benefits steel companies harmed by illegal imports. Ney also decried cuts in food stamps, student loans, medical care for the poor and child-support enforcement in the legislation.

“With regard to this bill ... I do not believe it is in the best interests of my district and my constituents,” said Ney, who serves as chairman of the House Administration Committee.

EFFECT ON STARK COUNTY

On student loans, provisions to increase interest rates and fees paid by student and parent borrowers, combined with cuts to lender subsidies, would contribute $14.3 billion in savings.

Locally, college officials say they are unsure how this will affect students.

“An increase in interest rates on student loans could certainly have an impact on Stark State students who already struggle to meet the financial obligations of a college education,” said Irene Lewis Motts, director of marketing and communications at Stark State College of Technology. “Until we receive further information on the amount of the interest rate increase, it’s difficult to determine the affect it will have.”

Nearly 60 percent of Stark State’s students receive some form of financial assistance.

But some of the most drastic cuts will be seen in early childhood education programs, such as Even Start.

Kristine Wyler, a program manager in the Stark County Educational Service Center’s Early Childhood Department, said Even Start, a literacy program that helps adults and young children, may have its funding cut by 56 percent.

“I just do not understand how we can abandon this program,” Wyler said. “It is a morality issue.

“We are dealing often times with people who are poor and undereducated,” she added. “Seeing these kinds of programs be cut — what happens to the undereducated? What kind of lives will they have?”

The bill approved by the House also includes a provision repealing a five-year-old trade law that diverts duties collected on illegally dumped imports to affected U.S. companies. The Timken Co., a bearing manufacturer in Canton, has been the single-largest beneficiary of that law.

Ney mentioned the law, known as the “Byrd amendment,” as a reason he opposed the bill. Regula also favors retaining the law and led an unsuccessful effort to get House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to strip the repeal from the bill. The Senate version of the legislation does not contain the repeal, and it is unknown if the repeal would be included in the compromise bill.

LAWMAKERS REACT

Every House Democrat, including Reps. Sherrod Brown of Avon, Tim Ryan of Niles and Ted Strickland of Lisbon, voted against the cuts. Ney was among 14 Republicans who broke from their party to oppose the bill.

Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, voted for the bill even though he was concerned about increasing the costs of medical care for the poor and harming children’s programs.

“It’s not going anywhere,” he said of the House-passed bill. Since the Senate passed its own version with a smaller, $35 billion spending cut, negotiators will have to come up with a compromise bill that will require House and Senate approval.

“I’m confident that anything that is finally produced ... will be more moderate,” he said.

Democratic lawmakers criticized Republicans for cutting programs when they plan to offer a $57 billion tax cut package when Congress returns after Thanksgiving.

“It is not a deficit-reduction bill,” Strickland said. “It is a bill that will (in combination with the proposed tax cut) increase the deficit while at the same time severely hurt children, older people and students.”

SENATE VOTE

In the Senate, Voinovich, R-Ohio, carried through with his threat to vote against any new tax cuts.

By a 64-33 vote, the Senate approved a package that provides hurricane relief and extends expiring tax breaks with bipartisan appeal such as state and local income tax deductions. The measure does not include extensions of capital gains and dividend tax cuts the Bush administration sought.

Voinovich said in a statement that he voted against the tax cuts because “we cannot afford them right now, we do not need them right now, and we should be working on fundamental tax reform rather than tinkering.”

DeWine voted for the bill because many of its provisions, including extending tax credits for college tuition and retirement plan contributions, would benefit middle- and low-income taxpayers, his spokesman, Jeff Sadosky, said.

The Senate-passed tax cuts are not final as the House still plans to consider its own package.