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NEW BRUNSWICK - As the U.S. Senate began negotiations to stave off a federal government shutdown, representatives from NJPIRG were joined by Doug O’Malley of Environment America, and Spencer Klein, a Rutgers student, at a press event at Rutgers University to urge the Senate to focus their spending cuts on wasteful handouts to narrow special interests.
As detailed in a new comparison chart released at the event by NJPIRG, the House-passed spending resolution makes deep cuts to public priorities while largely leaving in place wasteful subsidies and tax loopholes for special interests. NJPIRG sent letters of disappointment to supporters of the House resolution.
“Tough choices are supposed come only after the easy ones,” said Gideon Weissman, NJPIRG Program Associate. “It’s difficult to imagine how cuts to Pell Grants, food safety, and clean drinking water come before subsidies to BP and advertising for fast food and clothing. And yet, that’s exactly what the House resolution does.”
“New Jersey families have a fundamental right to clean air and clean water, but this bill is the largest assault on both in recent history,” said Doug O'Malley, field director for Environment New Jersey. “New Jersey citizens voted for a lot of things in November, but they didn’t vote for more asthma attacks, more contaminated drinking water supplies and more threats to our open spaces."
Rutgers NJPIRG Students at the event focused on the House’s proposed cuts to Pell Grants, a cornerstone of federal student financial aid. According to NJPIRG Rutgers student Spencer Klein, "I can't imagine a single politician in Washington who would publicly state that he or she would put the desires of wealthy oil and gas corporations before the needs of college students in this country, but by passing this resolution, they will be doing just that."
In a statement prepared by Senator Robert Menendez for the event, he expressed his agreement:
"While the Administration’s budget keeps the maximum Pell grant award at $5,550, there is a proposal to slash the award by $845 and continue to cut the program by $56 billion over the next ten years. These cuts will mean more than 180,000 New Jersey students will see education costs rise under the budget. These budgets cuts do not demonstrate shared sacrifice, as the budget continues to have tax breaks for oil companies. These cuts would be devastating to New Jersey college students and their families who are sacrificing and struggling to meet the rising costs of a college education in a challenging economy."
NJPIRG compared the spending cuts in the House budget resolution and President Obama’s budget proposal to a series of reports produced by NJPIRG. One report, Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide to Reduce Federal Spending, identified $600 billion in spending reductions over 5 years that have support across the political spectrum. The spending reductions detailed in the report amount to more than the reductions called for in the House passed resolution.
“The waste identified in the Common Ground report should be low-hanging fruit,” Weissman said. “Rather than preparing for a partisan brawl in the Senate, why not start where we might find some agreement?”
NJPIRG expressed appreciation for Representative Pallone’s vote to reject H.R. 1, and called on Senators Lautenberg and Menendez to reject the House blueprint and start with cuts to programs that do not serve the public interest.
The comparison chart and common ground report can be found at NJPIRG.org.
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