Children Bear Brunt of Federal Tax Cuts

In the absence of federal assistance, childcare, education, and children’s health programs are being slashed across the country despite their popularity and effectiveness.

For instance:

  • Ohio cut $268 million in childcare assistance funding, leaving 18,500 fewer children without care;
  • Massachusetts cut all $5 million in funding for after-school and out-of-school grants to communities;
  • Georgia cut $156 million in K-12 education funding;
  • Minnesota cut $350 million in healthcare for children and families, ending coverage for a projected 38,000 people;
  • Texas cut $428 million in child health care, ending coverage for 170,000 children; and
  • In Oregon, more than 50 school districts shortened the 2002-03 school year by up to 24 days to offset lost tax revenue.

The ability of states to provide these services has been greatly diminished by recent tax cuts, costing $1.7 trillion, decreased revenue as a result of the sluggish economy, and severe reductions in federal spending, including funding for the Childcare and Development Block Grant.

For most states, the federal government provides between 50 percent and 70 percent of health and social service spending for children, which often encourages additional state and local funding, according to a new study by the Every Child Matters Education Fund. In 2001, for instance, $6.5 billion in federal funding for childcare assistance was matched by $1.6 billion in state funds. Without such assistance, states are being forced to roll back crucial services, as they face budget deficits in the range of $70 to $85 billion for state fiscal year 2004, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Moreover, assuming that states do not act to “decouple” their tax codes from federal law, the new 2003 tax cuts are estimated to reduce state revenues by $3 billion over the next two years, and if expiring provisions are extended, $16 billion or more over the next 10 years. In addition, repeal of taxes on inherited wealth is projected to cost the states $9 billion a year.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has pressed to devolve formerly state and federal responsibilities to community-based nonprofits and other service providers, which are seeing their caseloads balloon just as the rug is being pulled out from under them, with federal funding down and private giving diminished as a result of the poor economy. This has led to further severe cutbacks in children’s services, as detailed in a a recent report by Venture Philanthropy Partners.

Children’s advocates view the administration’s budget decisions as shortsighted. Greater investments in children’s programs in the 1990s corresponded with improved outcomes. For instance,

In addition to research indicating the effectiveness of children’s programs, there is evidence that the public is willing to pay for child and family services. In a recent national survey, 68 percent of registered voters preferred greater investments in their children and grandchildren over tax cuts, which received only 24 percent support.

Nonetheless, the Bush administration has gone in the other direction, forcing hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts for childcare, children’s health care, as well as pre-kindergarten and after-school programs. Kids are beginning to feel the brunt of the severe drop in federal and state revenues, and without a dramatic change in the country’s fiscal priorities, the worst is yet to come.


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