New Posts

Feb 8, 2016

Top 400 Taxpayers See Tax Rates Rise, But There’s More to the Story

As Americans were gathering party supplies to greet the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service released their annual report of cumulative tax data reported on the 400 tax r...

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Feb 4, 2016

Chlorine Bleach Plants Needlessly Endanger 63 Million Americans

Chlorine bleach plants across the U.S. put millions of Americans in danger of a chlorine gas release, a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon. Greenpeace’s new repo...

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Jan 25, 2016

U.S. Industrial Facilities Reported Fewer Toxic Releases in 2014

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2014 is now available. The good news: total toxic releases by reporting facilities decreased by nearly six percent from 2013 levels. Howe...

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Jan 22, 2016

Methane Causes Climate Change. Here's How the President Plans to Cut Emissions by 40-45 Percent.

  UPDATE (Jan. 22, 2016): Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its proposed rule to reduce methane emissions...

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House Passes Budget Resolution of Huge Tax Cuts, Program Cuts; Senate Votes Weds.

The House passed its FY 2004 budget resolution last week, officially kicking off the Congressional budget debates for the coming fiscal year. The Senate voted to preserve all but $100 billion of the President’s tax cut, but won’t complete work on the budget resolution until Wednesday, March 26. Though the budget resolutions of each chamber reflect much of the President’s own budget proposals, and especially his $726 billion tax cut, neither resolution passed without a great deal of effort among Republican leaders to ensure that Congressional members voted together.

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President Signs FY 2003 Appropriations Omnibus Bill

On February 20, nearly five months after the October 1 start of federal fiscal year 2003, the President signed into law an omnibus bill providing funding for the departments and programs covered by the 11 appropriations bills that were not completed by the October 1 deadline last fall.

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Update: FY 2003 Appropriations Drawing to a Close?

As reported in today’s Washington Post, House and Senate conferees are nearing completion on negotiations over H.R. 2, the omnibus bill for the remaining 11 FY 2003 appropriations bills that were not enacted by last October 1.

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Continuing Resolution, Take 8

Last week the House and Senate Passed, and the President signed the eighth continuing resolution (CR) of the FY 2003 budget season. This CR will keep the federal government and the programs it funds going through January 31, 2003. Without the CR, there would be no funding for these programs and the government would be forced to shut down – an option no one wanted to serve as the opening to the 108th Congress last week. As discussed in previous issues of the Watcher, there are many problems for agencies trying to operate under a stream of CR’s, which only continue last year’s funding levels, with no increase for inflation. There is hope that this will be the last CR necessary for FY 2003, as many in Congress want to complete work on the remaining 11 appropriations bills by combining them into an omnibus appropriations bill – to allow them to move on to the FY 2004 budget.

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Economic Stimulus ? First, Do No Harm

An economic stimulus plan will be on the table early in the next Congress. Following is the tentative schedule. Given the sudden change in Senate leadership with Sen. Trent Lott’s (R-MS) resignation as Senate Majority Leader, there is a great deal of uncertainty about how the budget process will proceed next year, including issues of timing, number of reconciliation bills, and content. The next Watcher may contain a very different timetable.

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Budget Schedule

The incoming Director of Budget and Appropriations Issues for Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), G. William Hoagland, recently gave a briefing to states about the upcoming budget. Included in this piece are some points from that briefing and other reports, as well as a tentative schedule for completing work on the FY 2003 budget and beginning the FY 2004 budget work.

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A Dismal Outlook for Domestic Spending

Congress officially adjourned last Friday, after passing its seventh Continuing Resolution (CR) of the year. This CR, H.J. 124, was necessary to provide the funding to keep government running because Congress was unable to pass 11 of the 13 appropriations bills for FY 2003, which began on October 1, 2002. This CR funds departments and programs at their FY 2002 levels through January 11. It appears there will be an effort to pass the FY 2003 appropriations before the President’s State of the Union address, so at least one more CR will be necessary.

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Appropriations Update

While timeliness has not been a hallmark of appropriations bills in recent years, this year is proving exceptionally slow. According to budget procedures, appropriations bills are supposed to be finished by June 30 to leave plenty of time to reconcile differences between the House and Senate before the new fiscal year, which starts October 1. But this year, not a single appropriations bill has been sent to the president, and neither house has completed action on all 13 appropriations bills.

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Budget Process Rules the Senate

As noted on these pages many times over the last few months, the Senate is unique in its traditions and rules. One feature that helped earn the Senate the title of the “world’s greatest deliberative body” is its rules that allow for, and even necessitate, policy debates, which are a vital part of the legislative process. These rules push the Senate to work out differences between conflicting legislative proposals and help ensure that the voice of the minority is protected. To extend this principle to tax and spending issues, the Senate has special rules.

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Why Federal Budget Rules Matter

As we often try to remember on these pages, the federal budget, which may superficially appear to be merely a convoluted collection of insignificant numbers, is actually the decoder ring to a better understanding of our country’s real priorities -- since not a lot happens to improve a problem without spending money, the federal budget reveals which problems our country’s policy makers are working to improve. Even less understood and farther removed from our daily lives are the intricacies of federal budget rules. These rules, which govern how the House and Senate must work to craft the country’s annual budget, are in place to ensure that sufficient time is given to debating and developing the a course for tackling the nation’s problems.

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Resources & Research

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race, and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards

People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely...

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A Tale of Two Retirements: One for CEOs and One for the Rest of Us

The 100 largest CEO retirement funds are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41 percent of American fam...

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