What would you do?

News Hits is taking a survey and asks that you circle one of the following: (a) U.S. Congress should reduce funding to social services programs so that it can authorize large tax cuts that generally amount to very little to the average Joe; or (b) U.S. Congress should forgo the tax cuts so that it does not have to cut programs that benefit low- and moderate-income children, the elderly and disabled.

If you chose (b), you are probably not a politician because the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee asked itself this same question and it chose (a). (Can you say "election year"?)

The appropriations committee recently approved reducing the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) by $1.1 billion, according to Sharon Parks, senior research associate for the Michigan League for Human Services, a Lansing-based watchdog group. This money enables states such as Michigan to fund protective services for children and disabled adults, day care, foster care programs for at-risk kids and enables the elderly to remain in their homes rather than be placed in nursing homes and institutions. Michigan could lose $42.7 million in SSBG funds for fiscal year 2001 – a 66 percent decrease from last year.

According to Parks, the cuts will enable the appropriations committee to authorize large tax cuts. What will the states do without the money? The idea is that each state can make up this funding with the money it will receive from tobacco settlements. But as Parks points out, Michigan, for instance, has already allocated the tobacco money to other programs.

If the appropriations committee’s stance wins out in Congress, it will be up to President Bill Clinton to veto the SSBG reductions. Don’t leave it up to him. Call U.S. Sens. Carl Levin (202-224-6221) or Spencer Abraham (202-224-4822) and ask that they oppose the budget cuts.

News Hits is edited by W. Kim Heron. He can be reached by phone at 313-202-8004 or via e-mail