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Entitlement programs must be reformed

By Staff
The Deficit Reduction Act
Before adjourning for Thanksgiving, the House passed the Deficit Reduction Act. This important legislation demonstrates the resolve of this Congress to be fiscally responsible with your taxpayer dollars.
The Deficit Reduction Act reforms key government programs, and achieves $50 billion in savings. This is a down payment on America's future. It is a wise plan to keep our government on sound fiscal footing, and we must continue to reduce our national deficit. In the past 19 months, the national deficit has been reduced $202 billion.
Many of the savings are achieved by reducing the rate of growth of certain bloated federal programs. It should be noted that, we are only slowing the rate of growth for many of these programs. Entitlement spending now consumes about 54 percent of the total budget, and it will rise to 62 percent by 2015 if left on its current path. We must begin a longer-term effort to slow the growth of this spending.
This savings is in addition to actual reforms of certain entitlement programs like Medicaid, welfare programs, farm subsidies, and food stamps. Many of these entitlement programs were created decades ago and are in desperate need of reform. Modernization and improvements must be made in order to keep up with the times.
The Deficit Reduction Act contains provisions that trim the deficit and reform government programs including:
Reducing waste, fraud and abuse
This legislation puts an end to the practice of some lenders who charge students 9.5 percent interest. It also stops the double-dip payments of federal matching funds when states spend federal child support administrative funds.
Simplifying student loan programs
As college enrollment increases, so will funding for student financial aid. Financial aid will increase as loan limits are increased and origination fees are reduced.
Rebuilding community first responder capabilities
As recommended by the 9-11 Commission, the legislation frees up vital spectrum airwaves so that our first responders can better protect our citizens in the event of natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
Protecting workers' pensions
Workers' pensions will be protected by placing the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) on a more solid financial foundation and protecting taxpayers from the cost of a massive bailout.
Expanding welfare reform
This legislation reauthorizes welfare reform policies, and it provides an additional $1 billion in funding for welfare.
Increasing heating assistance for low-income Americans
To help needy families heat their homes, $1 billion in additional funding is provided to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Providing special provisions for hurricane victims
The Emergency Food Assistance Program will receive $12 million to replenish food banks depleted as a result of hurricane relief. The Federal Medical Assistance Program match is increased to 100 percent until May 15, 2006, to provide Medicaid services to Hurricane Katrina survivors. Additionally, students who were living or working in an area affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are granted a six-month deferment for any student loans.
As we know too well, the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma has been enormous. We, as a nation, must be committed to recovery, and we must ensure that those involved with rebuilding have the resources needed to restore the Gulf Coast. We must also understand that our obligation does not end with writing big checks.
Natural disasters like these will occur again, and in order to be prepared to afford these in the future, Congress must be responsible with the American people's money. It is imperative that we have a federal budget dynamic enough to assume these costs.
The Deficit Reduction Act makes this possible. Our economy is continuing to grow and create jobs. President Ronald Reagan once said, &#8220The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that the government spends too much.”
These words still ring true today, and this legislation provides another good step in addressing long-term spending challenges in our federal budget.
My staff and I work for you. Please call if we can be of service.
Jo Bonner represents the people of this area in the U.S. H ouse of Representatives.