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Taxpayer's Tab Issue #5

February 8, 2013

 

 

 

Vol. 4 Issue 5 February 8, 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. 188, the 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act

Annualized Cost: $16 billion ($64 billion over four years)

In 1933, President Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as one New Deal solution to mass unemployment during the Great Depression. Through 1943, when it was disbanded, the public program employed a total of 2.5 million men to develop natural resources in rural areas (on government lands) and to build infrastructure for conservation purposes. The CCC provided workers with food, clothing, medicine, and barrack-style housing. Workers received a monthly stipend and the the majority of an enrollee's wages would be sent to their families back home.

Now, almost eighty years later, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) has introduced legislation to reestablish the CCC. H.R. 188 would employ an unspecified number of jobless citizens to construct and maintain public works. The bill authorizes the President to provide enrollees with "subsistence, clothing, medical attendance and hospitalization, and cash allowance, as may be necessary, during the period they are so employed." Workers would not only labor on projects similar to the original CCC but also on control of plant disease and pests. There is also a provision that would allow the President to assign tasks not explicitly outlined in the bill as he sees fit, as long as it employs otherwise unemployed people.

Representative Kaptur also introduced this bill in the last Congress when she said, "[w]e can plant 20 million new trees, start cleaning corridors for high speed rail, add nurses to communities, aid veterans, refurbish homes, and invest in water management. Even just fixing potholes would mean a lot."

For filling positions in the new program, the bill would provide preferential treatment to unemployed veterans followed by civilians who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

According to the text of H.R. 188, the federal government would be authorized to spend $16 billion per year between FY 2014 and 2017. Because of a provision allowing for unobligated public works funds to be used for CCC purposes, it is unclear if the level of new net spending would be lower than the $64 billion four-year authorization requested by the sponsor.

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


The Least Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: S. 44, the Medical Care Access Protection (MCAP) Act

Annualized Savings: $3.6 billion ($18 billion over five years)

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the MCAP Act in January in an attempt to reform the medical malpractice claim system. As claims have become more pervasive in the health care industry, some lawmakers worry about the effect that could have on the price of medical services, as well as patients’ access to those services. According to the text of the bill, the current malpractice system "is a deterrent to the sharing of information among health care professionals which impedes efforts to improve patient safety and quality of care."

Additionally, frequent lawsuits can have significant effects on federal spending due to the high number of people receiving medical benefits through government-financed programs. The government also pays a large number of health care providers for services affected by malpractice premiums. As those premiums rise, so does the overall level of spending on health care.

Senator Portman’s legislation builds on previous bills with similar goals: S. 197, the MCAP Act of 2011, was introduced in the 112th Congress, along with H.R. 5, the HEALTH Act of 2011. MCAP limits the amount of damages that may be awarded under a medical malpractice suit, as well as the fees attorneys may receive for representing claimants. The bill also prevents health care professionals from being held liable for damages from FDA-approved prescription drugs or services (when given under approved conditions).

NTUF derived its savings estimate from portions of a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate for H.R. 5 in the 112th Congress. The bill would reduce spending by $18 billion over 5 years through federal health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

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


Most Friended

The Bill: H.R. 11/S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Annualized Savings: $121 million ($607 million over five years)

Number of Cosponsors: 181 House Members and 60 Senators

Throughout the 112th Congress, Members of both Chambers debated how to reauthorize and potentially reform or expand the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The law, enacted in 1994 and authorized through the end of last year, required the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice to fund programs to provide for prevention and recovery services to victims of crimes such as domestic violence and rape. Funds are also used to provide education assistance for both victims and health professionals.

In 2012, VAWA reauthorization legislation was proposed which included expanding these programs to include gay and lesbian individuals, Native Americans, and undocumented immigrants living in the country. Another provision to allow visas to be awarded to victims or witnesses of certain crimes was proposed. However, the House and Senate each passed different VAWA bills and time ran out before a compromise package could be negotiated.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have re-introduced last year’s S. 1925 as H.R. 11 and S. 47, respectively.  The bills each include an additional section known as the SAFER Act of 2013. This program would address the backlog of the examination of forensic evidence for certain crimes against women and is not expected to affect spending.

Upon introducing her legislation, Representative Moore said that "[n]o woman should ever feel afraid in her own neighborhood or home. No woman should ever have to endure the physical and psychological pain of domestic violence. Yet, too many women continue to live in fear. And that is why we must reauthorize -- and strengthen -- the [VAWA]." Senator Leahy stated that "I am proud that our bill seeks to support all victims, regardless of their immigration status, their sexual orientation or their membership in an Indian tribe."

If enacted, NTUF determined that the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act would increase federal spending by $607 million over the next five years. Though a CBO analysis reported a higher cost estimate for S. 1925 in the last Congress, our estimate takes into account last year’s budget outlays for VAWA-related programs to show the net change in spending from year to year that would result from passage of the bill. NTUF also estimates that eliminating the evidence backlog would not increase spending beyond the BillTally cost threshold of $1 million.

All 181 Cosponsors of H.R. 11 are Members of the Democratic Party. Supporters of S. 47 include 51 Democrats, seven Republicans, and two Independent Senators, both of whom caucus with the Democratic Party.

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


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The Wildcard

The Bill: H.R. 230, the Johnson Space Center Workforce of 2013

Annualized Cost: $40 million ($80 million over two years)

 

 

 

 

 

There is at least one federal program that has been subject to budget constraint over the last several years: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Since 2009, NASA’s budget declined from a high of $19.2 billion to $17.6 billion in 2012. In 2010, development of the Constellation manned-capsule program was cancelled and in 2011, the space shuttle program was retired.  The loss of these programs required the agency to reduce its contractor workforce.  Some Representatives are concerned that future budgetary cuts will further threaten NASA-related jobs in their districts.

Congressman Al Green (D-TX) reintroduced the Johnson Space Center Workforce of 2013 bill "to assist the employees of the Johnson Space Center who are at risk of losing their jobs ...", according to the Congressman's remarks on the bill introduced in a previous Congress. The bill would require the Department of Labor to establish a job training program and, possibly, a "one-stop career center" to assist affected Space Center workers as well as employees of contractors in the Houston, Texas region that would be affected by cuts or changes to NASA’s budget. To help stabilize the local economy, the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration would be authorized to spend tax dollars on a number of "economic adjustment" strategies that may include supporting technical startups employing dislocated engineers, providing technical assistance to local governments, and implementing infrastructure upgrades.

According to the text of the bill, the Departments of Labor and Commerce could spend up to $80 million over two years. Not more than $10 million would be authorized to be spent on job training programs or more than $30 million for economic stability each year.

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


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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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