Children's Monitor Online
A Public Policy Update from the Child Welfare League of America

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 4: 1/22/2007   
Headlines

Few Surprises Expected in State of the Union

Rangel Opposes Attaching Tax Breaks to Minimum Wage Increase

Key House Subcommittee Will Look Very Different in 2007

Diverse New Coalition to Address Expanding Health Coverage for the Uninsured

Still Time to Register and Make Your Voices Heard on Capitol Hill

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Few Surprises Expected in State of the Union

The President unofficially begins the 2008 fiscal year budget process this week when he delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Less than two weeks later, the Administration will follow up the speech with the release of its FY 2008 budget proposal on February 5.

The President is expected to focus on the war and will indicate he is submitting a budget that will be balanced within five years if Congress adopts his proposals. Such a budget proposal would likely have severe cuts for many domestic programs, since the President will also call for an extension of his past tax-cut proposals and will request up to $100 billion more for the war in Iraq. Any new domestic proposals are likely to be small and would have to obtain the money through cuts in other parts of the domestic budget.

Currently, the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution (CR), which extends almost all federal departments funding until February 15. Under the current CR, all departments except Defense and Homeland Security are being funded at the lower of the House- or Senate-passed appropriations bills; the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education budgets are funded at 2006 levels. The previous Congress was unable to complete work none of the FY 2007 appropriations bills, except Deference and Homeland Security. The new Congressional leadership has indicated it will adopt a CR that will run through the rest of FY 2007, attempting to fund programs at 2006 levels, with adjustments in some areas.

The final CR would also drop all earmarks the previous Congress had included in last year's appropriations bills. This might allow, in some instances, for appropriators to free some dollars to make those appropriations adjustments. The previous Congress had been proposing bills that left most of child welfare funding at 2006 levels. One of the few exceptions was Promoting Safe and Stable Families, which would suffer a $14 million cut from its 2006 level of $395 million. CWLA has been working to at least maintain the funding. The Congressional leadership has indicated it will not have an agreement on final 2007 funding until close to the February 15 expiration date.

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Rangel Opposes Attaching Tax Breaks to Minimum Wage Increase

Last week, House Ways and Means Chair Charles Rangel (D-NY) indicated he would oppose Senate efforts to attach a tax-cut package to a minimum wage increase. The Senate Finance Committee passed a tax bill January 17 expanding or extending a number of tax breaks targeted to small businesses. The cost of the package would be offset or paid for by changes in other parts of the tax code.

Included in the tax package is an extension of the work opportunity tax credit, which gives a tax deduction to businesses hiring welfare recipients and other low-income workers. There are also provisions to expand the write-off or depreciation of some business property. One of the more controversial ways to pay for some of the tax expansions is a proposal that would limit how much corporations can pass on to top executives in deferred tax-free compensation. Under the Senate bill, companies could not pass on more than $1 million a year in deferred pay tax free.

Rangel has voiced objections to attaching any tax breaks to the minimum wage bill and instead has called for a straight increase without additional provisions. The minimum wage bill would raise the current rate of $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over two years.

Under the Constitution, all tax bills must originate in the House, and Rangel has indicated he would use House authority to stop such tax additions. Many feel the only way the Senate can pass a minimum wage increase is by attaching business tax cuts. A bill needs 60 votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster.

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Key House Subcommittee Will Look Very Different in 2007

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, which tends to be the starting point for any child welfare legislation in the House, will be chaired by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA). That change was expected, but the new ranking member on the Republican side will be a new face to the subcommittee, Representative Jerry Weller (R-IL). In the past, Weller has introduced legislation that would expand Title IV-E training funds to private child welfare agencies, an item that has been on the CWLA agenda for several congresses.

Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) will remain on the subcommittee. Other Democrats will include Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV) , Arthur Davis (D-AL), John Lewis (D-GA), Michael McNulty (D-NY), and Kendrick Meek (D-FL). Republican members include returning members David Camp (R-MI), Phil English (R-PA), and Wally Herger (R-CA); they will be joined by newcomer Jon Porter (R-NV).

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Diverse New Coalition to Address Expanding Health Coverage for the Uninsured

A January 18 press event was held in Washington DC, announced a diverse new coalition of physician, hospital, business, insurance, pharmaceutical, and consumer organizations. These organizations have come together as the Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured to work to expand health coverage for the uninsured.

The coalition will propose a comprehensive national health care reform plan in two phases. The first phase, the Kids First Initiative, is designed for enactment in 2007, when Congress is expected to consider legislation to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The proposal's second phase will focus on uninsured adults, including a call for additional federal funding to the states for SCHIP and Medicaid expansions.

Consensus on this phase is expected to include a call for universal coverage, accomplished either through a mandate on everyone to purchase basic health insurance or a mandate on all employers to offer it. This universal health coverage requirement would be accompanied by subsidies for families with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level, along with a variety of other mechanisms to help individuals and small businesses buy health insurance.

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Still Time to Register and Make Your Voices Heard on Capitol Hill

CWLA's national conference, Children 2007: Raising Our Voices for Children, will be held February 25-28. On Tuesday, February 27, CWLA will host its annual Hill Day event. This event will be especially vital in getting child welfare issues on the national agenda, since there is a new Congress in place, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks frequently about the importance of children.

Hill Day is an excellent opportunity to meet with members of Congress and key staff. Every year, this event brings together hundreds of participants who carry a strong message to Capitol Hill. This will be an energizing day and one of the most significant advocacy actions for child welfare in 2007.

Hill Day gives constituents the opportunity to actively promote CWLA's 2007 Legislative Agenda which will be officially released during the conference. Hill Day begins with presentations by leaders in Congress on their priorities for 2007, and briefings by the CWLA Government Affairs staff. At lunchtime, participants go to specific state and regional caucuses to discuss the issues, talking points, lobbying tips, and more general information. In the afternoon, Hill Day participants take a bus to the Capitol to meet with their Representatives and Senators and staff.

We encourage everyone attending the conference to schedule meetings with your Members of Congress for Hill Day. CWLA can provide contact information and tips on arranging visits, or you can contact your state leader. State Leaders are leaders in the field, advocates in their states, and volunteers with CWLA to lead their states' delegations to Capitol Hill. Contact your State Leader today!

As part of the annual conference, CWLA is conducting a special institute on local advocacy, "Create Change: New Strategies and Lessons Learned around Local Level Advocacy," to be held Sunday, February 25, 1:00-5:00 p.m. This institute will be dedicated to developing effective messaging and creating and testing different approaches to advocacy. Guest presenters will discuss how to craft successful local messages and initiatives based on recent analysis. Create Change will be a great opportunity for child welfare advocates to develop local level strategy and messaging.

Register for the conference online. For more information about Create Change or Hill Day, contact Cristina Fahrenthold, CWLA Government Affairs, at cfahrenthold@cwla.org or 202/942-0257.

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CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

CWLA's Legislative Alerts provide breaking news, advocacy information, and critically important timely details of legislative battles. In an effort to broaden CWLA's advocacy network on behalf of children, anyone can now subscribe and receive the same information. This effort compliments CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, the Children's Monitor, which is also available free to any subscriber. We encourage you to register to receive these items directly and to pass on the information to other colleagues, family, and friends.

Subscribe to Legislative Alerts.

Subscribe to Children's Monitor.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

January 23: State of the Union Address
February 5: Release of the President's 2008 budget request
February 15: Continuing resolution expires
February 25-28: CWLA National Conference, Children 2007: Raising Our Voices for Children, in Washington DC.


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