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Taxpayer's Tab Issue #34

September 26, 2013

 

 

 

Vol. 4 Issue 34, September 26, 2013

Welcome to The Taxpayer's Tab -- the weekly newsletter for up-to-the-minute research from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's BillTally Project. For more information, check out NTUF's BillTally Project and our partner, WashingtonWatch.com!


Most Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 2367/S. 1131, the Building upon Unique Learning and Development (BUILD) Act

Annualized Cost: $737 million ($2.2 billion over three years)

In June, the entire New Mexico delegation (two Senators and three House Members) introduced the BUILD Act. The bill aims to "improve tribal education and preserve Native American language in schools" by increasing federal spending and changing the authority of tribal educational entities. Sponsored by Congressman Ben Lujan (D-NM) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), respectively, H.R. 2367 and S. 1131 would change or establish new programs in the following areas:

  • Coordination: A joint oversight board would be created to help collaboration and communication between the Departments of Education and the Interior regarding the provision of funding and technical assistance for Native American students.
  • Heritage Education: In addition, the BUILD Act would reauthorize the Esther Martinez Act, which provides grants to tribal governments for the purposes of teaching native languages and preserving the heritage, language, and culture of tribal communities.
  • Higher Education: Funding for colleges and universities would be reauthorized, though at lower levels compared to last year. Scholarships would also continue to be awarded to students seeking pre-law and other specialized degrees.
  • Student Well-Being: Health and wellness programs would be created to combat substance abuse and mental health problems as well as to provide support to dropouts.
  • Teacher Support: If enacted, the bill would authorize new grants for scholarships, loan forgiveness, incentive pay, and housing assistance to those teaching in high poverty areas, including tribal districts. Teachers with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics specialties would be given special preferential treatment for hiring and for access to continuing education funding.

NTUF identified 25 programs in the current budget designed to enhance educational opportunities for Native Americans, a demographic that includes Alaska Natives, Hawaiian Natives, and Indian tribal communities. In FY 2013, these programs provided over $900 million in funding, including  $110 million for education facilities maintenance, $69 million in college scholarships, and $53 million for student transportation assistance.

The BUILD Act would increase Impact Aid funding by $750 million a year for three years to pay for the new primary and secondary education activities detailed above. The bill would also reauthorize certain programs. NTUF compared the reauthorization funding in the bill with current spending for higher education for Native American colleges, universities, and scholarships and found that the Act would decrease spending levels by $38 million in FY 2014. In total, H.R. 2367 and S. 1131 would increase federal spending by a net of $2.2 billion from FY 2014 to 2016.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit WashingtonWatch.com.


Least Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: S. 1099, the Reducing Overlapping Payments Act

Annualized Cost: $281 million (first-year savings)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was designed to help Americans who cannot find work due to debilitating physical conditions. However, with the labor market stagnated, the number of people enrolled in disability assistance programs has seen steady growth, rising from just under 9 million in 2008 to nearly 11 million this year.

This trend has attracted the attention of both NPR and The Wall Street Journal. NPR's Planet Money noted that SSDI "has become a de facto welfare program for people without a lot of education or jobs skills. But it wasn't supposed to serve this purpose; it's not a retraining program designed to get people back on their feet. Once people go onto disability, they almost never go back to work." The Journal has echoed those concerns, citing a recent report by the Social Security Administration and warning "that the disability trust fund will run out of money in 2016," potentially leaving 11 million Americans in dire financial straits. Program officials have been warning of insolvency for years, another reminder of the pressing need for entitlement reforms.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced one such proposal. S. 1099 would limit the amounts paid out to those receiving both unemployment benefits and Social Security disability payments. If enacted, the bill would prevent individuals from concurrently receiving these two benefits, and instead only allow them to collect unemployment. Senator Coburn has suggested that the two systems were designed to serve different populations, one being for people who cannot work and the other being for people who are actively seeking work, and that the overlapping payments are quickly draining the programs of resources used to help those most in need. No law exists that would reduce overlapping payments of the two programs. Senator Coburn points out that President Obama has called for the "loophole" to be closed but Congress has not yet acted.

According to a 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the government paid $856 million in total overlap benefits to 117,000 individuals, or $7,316 per person, in FY 2010, the most recent year for which data is available. Base on that report, the Reducing Overlapping Payments Act could reduce spending by $281 million, which is the amount of disability insurance paid to individuals also collecting unemployment. NTUF scored the measure as a one-year savings in the absence of a more detailed, long-term cost analysis. GAO also notes that the total savings may not be realized because the system to identify the overlaps and prevent such payments does not currently exist, potentially requiring new administrative costs.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit WashingtonWatch.com.


Most Friended

The Bill: H.R. 2028/S. 1069, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act

Annualized Cost: "No Cost" -- Below Budget Threshold

Number of Cosponsors: 79 Congressmen and 11 Senators

Reintroduced by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), H.R. 2028 would "prohibit any entity that receives federal child welfare funds from discriminating against prospective adoptive or foster parents on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identification, or marital status ... ." The bill would also require equal treatment of children in foster care regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has sponsored a companion bill in the Senate.

The prohibition of discrimination would be a regulatory change and is not expected to require additional federal spending. However, the bill would also require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide technical assistance to adoption or foster care placement entities to ensure understanding of and compliance with the new requirements. GAO would also be required to carry out a study to determine whether or not states have effectively achieved the bill's goals. Both the technical assistance and the study would likely increase spending but NTUF determined that the amount would be below BillTally's minimum cost threshold of $1 million.

Cosponsors of H.R. 2028 include 78 Democrats and one Republican. In the Senate, there are currently 10 Democrats and one Independent (who caucuses with the Democrats) who support S. 1069.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit WashingtonWatch.com.


 We Want You! 

NTUF is looking for winter and spring associate policy analysts to participate in our internship program. Associates assist with BillTally research and other policy projects. Academic credit is possible. Email questions to ntuf@ntu.org. To apply visit our internship page. Join us and help keep a tab on Congress!

   

The Wildcard

The Bill: S. 1344, the Arctic Research, Monitoring, and Observing Act of 2013

Annualized Cost: $3 million ($17 million over five years)

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced S. 1344 "to ensure the science needed for responsible arctic development was getting done." The Arctic Research, Monitoring, and Observing Act would authorize Congress to fund new research grants issued by the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC), an independent federal agency that conducts studies on a wide-ranging slate of arctic-related issues.

In the 2013-2014 edition of its annual "Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research" report, USARC outlined five "priority research goals" that the new funding would presumably be used for, including: responding to climate change in the arctic; improving arctic human health; understanding natural resources; advancing civil infrastructure research; and assessing indigenous languages, identities, and cultures. The report also highlights USARC's intent to further investigate "emerging topics in the Arctic," such as childhood obesity and marine debris cleanup.

Currently, the USARC is funding through the National Science Foundation at around $1 million per year. Based on similar programs, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that S. 1344 would increase spending by $17 million over five years, or $3 million per year on average.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit WashingtonWatch.com.


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The National Taxpayers Union Foundation is able to produce timely reports and analysis for policymakers and taxpayers with the help and support of foundations, small businesses, and Americans -- like you -- who wish to stay informed of their government's spending.

With donations from Tab subscribers and members, NTUF will be able to continue to inform taxpayers about entitlement reform, the federal budget, and proposed legislation.

Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to NTUF.


Missed an Issue?

Issue 33 - Sept 19
Jobs for Urban Sustainability and Training in America Act

Issue 32 - Sept 13
Local Jobs for America Act

Issue 31 - Sept 6
Temporary Stimulus Programs Beyond Max Life

Issue 30 - Aug 23
Benefits for Former Presidents

Issue 29 - Aug 16
Statehood and Autonomy for the District of Columbia


About NTUF

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation is a research and educational organization dedicated solely to helping citizens of all generations understand how tax policies, spending programs, and regulations at all levels affect them now and in the future. Through NTUF's timely information, analysis, and commentary, we're empowering citizens to actively engage in the fiscal policy debate and hold public officials accountable every day.

NTUF is a 501(c)(3) research and education organization. Donations are deductible for personal income tax purposes. Please make a donation today to help further NTUF's mission of research and education!

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation or as a comment on any Member's fitness to serve.

 

 



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