federal budget

Whitehouse: GOP may bend on sequester, taxes in budget talks

October 29th, 2013 at 5:03 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Monday he’s cautiously optimistic that Senate Democrats and House Republicans can reach an agreement during high-stakes budget talks aimed at keeping the government open and reducing the impact of mandatory across-the-board spending cuts.

A conference committee was created in the bipartisan deal that ended this month’s government shutdown, and ordered to craft a federal spending blueprint by Dec. 13. Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, is the panel’s only member from Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Connecticut.

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• Related: Watch U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Newsmakers (Sept. 29)

Watch: Here’s how the shutdown could impact Rhode Island

September 30th, 2013 at 6:01 pm by under Nesi's Notes

RI delegation uniting on Wednesday – to fight Obama

May 8th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Three of the four members of Rhode Island’s all-Democratic congressional delegation will take aim Wednesday at someone who’s an unusual target for them: President Obama.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline are among the eight members of Congress co-hosting a summit on Capitol Hill to criticize a proposal in Obama’s latest budget that would trim Social Security benefits by switching to a measure of inflation known as “chained CPI.”

Rhode Island’s entire delegation slammed the policy when it emerged, and Cicilline has garnered national attention for introducing a resolution that would have Congress express formal disapproval of chained CPI. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are also among the summit’s hosts, giving it a decidedly New England flavor.

There were 207,122 Rhode Island residents receiving Social Security benefits in December 2011, the most recent month for which figures are available – meaning nearly 20% of state residents are on Social Security. Two-thirds of Rhode Island’s beneficiaries were 65 or older, while 35,905 were disabled and 15,704 were children. The Rhode Islanders’ combined Social Security benefits totaled $236 million that month.

The congressional event at 12:30 p.m. will be streamed live online by Strengthen Social Security, a coalition of unions and progressive groups that supports increasing benefits.

• Related: RI congressional delegation slams Obama over Social Security (April 10)

Watch Executive Suite: Brown’s Blyth sees danger in austerity

April 15th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

RI congressional delegation slams Obama over Social Security

April 10th, 2013 at 5:21 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

RI_delegation_bride_4-10-12_Lewis_SchulerPresident Obama isn’t getting any support from Rhode Island’s congressional delegation for his controversial proposal to trim future Social Security benefits.

All four Democrats – usually loyal defenders of the president – issued statements Wednesday criticizing Obama for his proposal to use a different measure of inflation, known as “chained CPI,” to calculate Social Security benefit increases, which would reduce payments over time compared with current law.

The harshest critique came from U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a leading liberal in the chamber. “The so-called ‘chained CPI’ proposal included in President Obama’s budget is nothing more than a benefit cut disguised behind technical jargon,” he declared.

Whitehouse said he thinks the way Social Security currently calculates inflation already “shortchanges” senior citizens and should be changed to increase benefits – the exact opposite of Obama’s proposal. “I made a promise to the people of Rhode Island that I would always oppose cuts to Social Security, and I’m going to keep that promise,” Whitehouse said.


Sequestration may force Blue Angels to skip the RI Air Show

February 21st, 2013 at 11:20 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

​By Ted Nesi

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels won’t be thrilling audiences at this summer’s Rhode Island Air Show if across-the-board military spending cuts take effect as scheduled starting March 1, according to a Pentagon briefing document obtained by WPRI.com.

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Senate Dems reportedly set to back Whitehouse’s ‘Buffett Rule’

February 12th, 2013 at 6:47 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

It looks like U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will get another chance to pass his “Buffett Rule.”

A growing number of reports from Washington indicate top Senate Democrats will make a version of the Buffett Rule – which would set a minimum tax rate for millionaires – a key part of their proposal to avert the so-called “sequester” of mandatory spending cuts set to take effect next month.

The Buffett Rule started out as an idea in an op-ed by Warren Buffett. After President Obama mentioned it in last year’s State of the Union address, Whitehouse quickly introduced legislation to put the measure into law. Whitehouse’s bill died in April when it failed to overcome a filibuster.

To pass the measure under normal Senate filibuster rules, Democrats would need every senator in their 55-member caucus to vote in favor and then win over five Republicans. That seems unlikely. But the idea’s continued prominence is another sign that Whitehouse has a feel for the legislative zeitgeist.

As for the fiscal impact, the CBO said Whitehouse’s “Buffett Rule” bill would raise $47 billion over 10 years. Whitehouse himself included the Buffett Rule in his new plan [pdf] to offset the sequester without spending cuts earlier this week, though he acknowledged the whole proposal was dead on arrival.

• Related: Not one, not two, but 18 views on Whitehouse’s ‘Buffett rule’ (April 16)

Map: RI budget more dependent on federal money than MA, CT

January 24th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The Tax Foundation is out with another interesting fiscal map, this one looking at how much of each state’s budget is paid for by the federal government based on 2011 U.S. Census data. Rhode Island ranks 18th, with 38% from the feds, much higher than Massachusetts (40th) or Connecticut (45th):

These numbers may be skewed in part by the 2009 stimulus law, which temporarily increased the share of Rhode Island’s state budget covered by the federal government by a significant amount. Governor Chafee’s proposed 2013-14 budget is only 32% federally funded, a six-point drop compared with the map.

RI Dems back Obama on fiscal cliff deal despite concerns

January 2nd, 2013 at 10:58 am by under Nesi's Notes

​By Ted Nesi​

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – They didn’t love it, but in the end all four Democrats in Rhode Island’s congressional delegation stood by President Obama and voted for this week’s “fiscal cliff” compromise, once again standing with their party’s leadership during a major confrontation.

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Watch: How the ‘fiscal cliff’ could impact Rhode Island

December 28th, 2012 at 8:23 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Whitehouse optimistic on filibuster, wary about ‘fiscal cliff’ deal

November 14th, 2012 at 7:07 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Fresh off his re-election victory, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says he’s optimistic the Senate will approve new rules making it harder for Republicans to block bills, and he’s prepared to break with President Obama on a budget deal if it cuts Social Security or Medicare benefits.

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Whitehouse ‘Buffett rule’ bill would raise $47B, up from $31B

March 22nd, 2012 at 12:10 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Congressional number-crunchers went back and took a second look at how much U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s ballyhooed “Buffett rule” bill would raise and increased its impact by about 52%, though it’s still a drop in the federal budget, Bloomberg reports:

Implementing a “Buffett rule” to require a minimum 30 percent tax rate for the highest U.S. earners would raise $47 billion over the next decade, according to a government projection.

The estimate for the proposal backed by President Barack Obama comes from the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s scorekeepers. Lawmakers updated the projection late today to reflect different assumptions about how taxpayers would adjust their capital gains realizations from an earlier $31 billion version. …

The $47 billion would have covered about half the cost of the 10-month extension of a payroll tax cut that Congress enacted last month. In a broader context, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obama’s 2013 budget plan would expand the deficit by $6.4 trillion over the next decade. The bill would reduce that by 0.7 percent.

Whitehouse argues the symbolism of the Buffett rule is important even if its fiscal impact is negligible. Ezra Klein, who interviewed Whitehouse about it last month, noted: “Whitehouse’s version of the Buffett rule phases in on incomes between $1 million and $2 million. So it only fully applies to annual incomes over $2 million. There aren’t that many of those.”

Langevin, Reed, Cicilline, Whitehouse on Obama’s deficit plan

September 19th, 2011 at 2:55 pm by under Nesi's Notes

President Obama unveiled a mammoth deficit-cutting plan this morning that would raise $1.5 trillion in new taxes over the next 10 years as part of more than $3 trillion in reductions. “He vowed to veto any deficit reduction package that cuts benefits to Medicare recipients but does not raise taxes on the wealthy and big corporations,” says the AP.

This afternoon, Congressman Jim Langevin became the first of Rhode Island’s four members of Congress to react.

In a statement to WPRI.com, Langevin said he was “encouraged” by the proposal. “However, the devil is always in the details, and I will be evaluating those details to ensure it accurately affects the priorities of the Rhode Islanders I represent,” he said.

Langevin says he wants “a balanced approach that cuts wasteful spending and asks the wealthiest few to pay their fair share,” and said Obama is correct when he “recognizes that we cannot get our fiscal house in order unless we grow our economy, and that means putting Americans back to work.”

After the jump, Senator Reed, Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Cicilline weigh in.


How the debt deal will squeeze RI and its cities and towns

August 4th, 2011 at 7:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Rhode Island’s state budget is already feeling the squeeze now that federal stimulus money has dried up. But this week’s debt-ceiling deal promises more pain down the road.

Federal dollars will pay for about 34% of Rhode Island’s $7.7 billion budget this fiscal year, which started July 1. That’s about the same as in most other states, where federal revenue accounts for about $1 out of every $3.

This week’s agreement calls for more than $2 trillion in federal budget cuts over the next 10 years. Those cuts will either be made by a congressional “super-committee” or forced through automatically if that panel fails to come to an agreement by the fall. Congress must vote on the panel’s ideas by Dec. 23. If those cuts take effect immediately, they could throw a monkey wrench into Rhode Island’s budget halfway through the fiscal year.

The New York Times reports that figuring out how states and local governments will be affected is “a frustrating task given the fact that many of the details of the reductions in federal spending will not be known until later in the year.” But the paper says there is “no doubt” they are “facing even more tough times ahead.”

The Washington Post agrees, saying “steep cuts will be unavoidable” and that they are “sure to compound the dire fiscal situation confronting the states.”

Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor, is exempt from the automatic-cuts trigger, but it could still come under the knife if the super-committee targets it. The Post thinks transportation and infrastructure spending could also be reduced. And as Stateline notes, there are a host of smaller programs that send federal dollars our way, too.

The impact won’t be limited to governments, either. The debt deal calls for cuts in Medicare payments to providers – doctors and hospitals – which will squeeze Rhode Island’s sizable health sector. Grad students will start accruing interest on their federally subsidized loans while they’re in school instead of after, and on-time repayment bonuses will be phased out for all student loans, USA Today reports.

Update: I forgot another obvious way the deal could affect Rhode Island – big cuts to the defense budget.

The automatic trigger would slice $600 billion from the Pentagon budget halfway through this year. (That’s on top of the roughly $400 billion in cuts military is already planning over the next decade.) That could mean layoffs at Naval Station Newport or a loss of business for the state’s Aquidneck-centered defense sector.