Get Ready for the One-Two Punch: Anticipated Cuts to SNAP, Medicaid, and Possibly More

As the U.S. Senate & House conferees are crafting the final GOP tax plan behind closed doors in conference committee, we already have a strong sense of who wins and who loses under this bill. Any changes that happen before the chambers vote during the week of December 18th will not repair the devastating provisions of either the House-passed or Senate-passed bills.

As we anticipate the passage of this final tax legislation, we want to turn toward the details of the future implications of a tax bill that adds $1.5 trillion to the national deficit over ten years.

Get ready for the one-two punch: anticipated cuts to SNAP, Medicaid, and possibly more.

As we expected during the federal budget resolution process in the fall, the tax bill that congressional Republicans are finalizing is just step one of a likely two-step tax and budget agenda. The plan looks like:

  1. Cut taxes now that are heavily skewed toward wealthy households and profitable corporations.
  2. Then decry the enlarged deficits that those tax cuts fuel — and insist that they require cuts to programs for mainly low- and middle-income families.

Republican leaders have repeatedly said in recent weeks that after enacting a tax bill, they will turn to budget cuts — particularly “welfare reform,” long a code for cuts to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid, Medicare, among others that help families of limited means afford food, housing, health care, and other basic needs.

Approximately 1 in 8 Montanans struggle with hunger, including 45,000 children living in food insecure homes. Cuts to SNAP would hurt families with kids, seniors, and people with disabilities. As for health coverage, about 232,000 Montanans are insured through Medicaid and Medicaid Expansion as of September 2017. Cuts to Medicaid would be devastating for our state, which is already grappling with an opioid epidemic, as well as major funding cuts to support rural health care needs and Montanans with disabilities.

The budget resolution that Congress approved in October, which created the process and set the parameters for the current tax bill, also calls for $5.8 trillion in budget cuts over the coming decade, including deep cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, and other health care programs; basic assistance including SNAP; and non-defense discretionary funding, the part of the budget that funds education and training, transportation and other infrastructure, medical research, child and elder care, and other important priorities.

GOP leaders appear already poised to seek large budget cuts next year before the final tax legislation makes it to the President’s desk.

Ultimately, the true winners and losers of this federal tax proposal and the subsequent plan to cut services that hundreds of thousands of Montanans rely on haven’t changed with small tweaks to the proposals. Low- and middle-income folks, working families with children, and Montanans with health care needs are all set up to fail if the GOP tax proposal becomes law.

MPBC Statement: GOP Senate Tax Plan Guts Health Care Coverage for Millions of Americans while Giving Massive Tax Cuts to Corporations and Wealthy

Following Senate passage of the Republican tax bill, Heather O’Loughlin of the Montana Budget and Policy Center released the following statement:

“Both the Senate and House tax bills are costly new giveaways to the very wealthy and major corporations at the expense of working families, including tens of millions of low-income and middle-class Americans who actually would face a tax increase. The GOP tax plans won’t create new jobs or help Main Street businesses—in fact, they could actually hurt Montana businesses and workers by giving large multinational corporations a permanent tax advantage. We call on Senator Daines and Representative Gianforte to stand with their constituents and reject the final tax bill.

Both tax bills would explode deficits, strain our state budget, and almost certainly force cuts to everything from nutrition assistance for families to education, Medicare, and infrastructure. To make matters worse, the Senate bill guts the Affordable Care Act, increasing the number of uninsured people by 13 million all to pay for corporate tax cuts.

Small changes won’t fix these terribly flawed bills, and the merged tax bill that comes out of a conference committee will be more of the same – offering nothing to most working families and ultimately hurting many Montanans. Instead of tax cuts that help those who need it the least, Senator Daines and Representative Gianforte should work to advance tax policies that invest in working families and ensuring that any tax bill is paid for by closing tax loopholes or other responsible tax changes.”

MBPC Statement: Budget deal is a squandered opportunity

In response to the adjournment of the 2017 legislative special session, Montana Budget and Policy Center released the following statement on the package of bills that passed the legislature and were accepted by the governor.

“Tens of thousands of Montanans impacted by multiple rounds of deep cuts to core programs and services were counting on the legislature to come together with the governor and find a balanced approach to deal with Montana’s revenue shortfall. Instead, the majority of lawmakers passed a budget deal that is ripe with missed opportunities. 

Facing the prospect of $227 million in additional cuts, the governor called the legislature back into special session, proposing modest increases in revenue that would help mitigate the cuts. Instead, the legislature is doubling down on permanent cuts and one-time transfers. 

For those fearing the worst, this budget may represent a small and partial reprieve. However, the long-term impacts of this new budget will be substantial. The legislature codified $110 million in cuts to health and human services and made it more difficult to restore services if revenue rebounds.

The State of Montana is facing a long-term revenue problem, caused, in part, by tax giveaways to out-of-state corporations and the wealthiest Montanans. Rather than beginning to climb out of a hole, lawmakers are digging themselves in deeper. The new budget relies on nearly $100 million of one-time-only transfers, with not a penny in new permanent revenue, guaranteeing a continuing and deepening budget crisis moving forward. 

This new budget is another instance of a failed approach that has led to a steady and continual erosion of the public services Montanans expect and deserve and a continued shift of burden to local communities and property taxpayers to pick up the tab. Our state deserves better than this. Montanans must continue to make their voices heard to ensure that next session finally brings a different and better approach.”

MBPC Statement in Response to the US House Tax Bill

Below is a statement by the Montana Budget and Policy Center in response to the United States House release of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

“The House GOP’s tax plan would enact large tax cuts that are heavily skewed toward wealthy households and profitable corporations, while increasing the federal deficit over time,” said Heather O’Loughlin, co-director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center. “These tax cuts will result in even greater pressure on Congress to make cuts to programs that serve Montana seniors, people with disabilities, children, and working Montana families, all the while putting millions of federal dollars that are injected into Montana’s local economies at risk.” 

The House Republican tax plan released today is more of the same. Just like earlier proposals from the Administration and congressional Republicans, it would increase federal deficits, provide enormous tax cuts to high-income households and corporations, and hurt working and middle-income families.

The House tax plan would increase federal deficits by at least $1.5 trillion over the coming decade.

  • To put that number in context, $150 billion per year would roughly equal:
    • Doubling the Pell Grant program, which provides aid to low- and moderate-income college students; AND
    • Doubling cancer research at National Institute of Health (NIH); AND
    • Funding the full backlog of needed maintenance at our national parks; AND
    • Providing child care assistance to six million children; AND
    • Providing opioid addiction treatment to 300,000 people; AND
    • Training 3.5 million workers for in-demand jobs.

Tax cuts under the House plan would go overwhelmingly to high-income households.

  • Even though the House tax plan does not cut the top rate, it still delivers large tax cuts to the top 1 percent because of the corporate tax, pass-through, and estate tax cuts. And the new “millionaires bracket” is itself a tax cut of $24,000 to millionaires since they would no longer need to pay a 39.6 percent rate on income between $481,100 and $1 million.

Business tax changes in the plan would benefit high-income households and large multinational corporations, not small businesses or the middle class.

  • The House bill creates a lower corporate tax rate – 10 percent – for multinationals’ foreign profits, half its 20 percent rate on domestic profits. That’s a big incentive for companies to shift profits and would give international corporations a tax advantage against local small businesses.
  • The special lower rate for pass-through businesses overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy, such as hedge fund owners and real estate investors.

The plan offers no benefits to most low-income working families: instead, it hurts many.

  • While the plan increases the Child Tax Credit (CTC) increase, it leaves out more than 10 million children in low-income working families. Another roughly 6 million would receive only small benefits over time because their credit would grow with inflation.
  • Low-income working adults without children and non-custodial parents are also largely excluded from the plan’s tax cuts, so millions would continue to be taxed into or deeper into poverty by federal income and payroll taxes.

Montana Families Rely on the Children’s Health Insurance Program: CHIP Facts

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides vital coverage for thousands of Montana’s children. Federal funding, however, expired at the end of September 2017, jeopardizing financial stability for families and for the state.

CHIP birthsMontana cannot afford to provide coverage to CHIP families without continued federal funding, and Montana families cannot afford to lose their children’s health insurance. Our elected officials in Washington, DC must act immediately to continue this vital program.

To learn more about CHIP in Montana and what is at risk with its expiration, read our CHIP fact sheet – Montana Families Rely on the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Rural Montana Hit Harder Under Senate Health Care Plan

Recently, MBPC released a report showing that the House-passed Affordable Health Care Act will hit rural Montana harder than our urban centers. The Senate took the deeply flawed House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) and made relatively minor adjustments to the bill’s framework. It does little to help those living in Montana’s rural communities who are at a greater risk of increased costs and loss of coverage.

This document Rural Montana Hit Harder Under Senate Health Care Plan is an updated report showing similar impacts to rural Montana under the proposed Senate health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The BCRA would cause tens of thousands of Montanans to lose coverage, would increase health care costs for many Montana families, and would result in the loss of billions in federal Medicaid funds to provide coverage for Montana children, elderly, and people with disabilities.

Here is the full updated report.

 

BRCA county graphic

 

Rural Montana Hit Harder Under House-Passed Health Care Plan

The House-passed health care bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), will result in tens of thousands of Montanans losing coverage, increased health care costs for many Montana families, and the loss of billions in federal Medicaid funds to provide coverage for Montana children, elderly, and people with disabilities. Those who are living in Montana’s rural communities are at even greater risk of increased costs and loss of coverage.

Medicaid plays a significant role in not only providing health coverage but also paying for care in rural areas. Threats to dismantle Medicaid and cut federal support will disproportionately harm rural Montanans and rural health providers, like critical access hospitals. Furthermore, rural Americans have benefited greatly from the tax credits and subsidies provided through the Affordable Care Act to access health insurance on the marketplace. The proposed tax credit under the House plan would no longer factor in regional disparities in costs of insurance and represent dramatic cuts to assistance for individuals, particularly older Montanans.

View the full report, Rural Montana Hit Harder Under House-Passed Health Care Plan.
How will AHCA impact MT

Guest opinion: U.S. House health reform puts Montanans at risk

Billings Gazette – May 7, 2017

The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a bill that will increase health care costs for hundreds of thousands of Montanans and put coverage at risk for many across the state.

After failing to reach the votes needed to pass legislation earlier this year, politicians in D.C. changed the bill. Unfortunately, they did not fix the provisions that would result in over 20 million Americans losing coverage by 2026 and many more facing steep increases in out-of-pocket costs for insurance. Instead, House GOP leaders made the bill even worse, by eliminating protections for Americans who have pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even pregnancy.

The bill effectively ends Montana’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion program, which extended coverage to over 77,000 Montanans who would otherwise be uninsured and saved the state over $22 million in the first year. Throughout the 2015 session, we heard from Montanans across the state who faced serious health conditions but were unable to access coverage. Montana’s Medicaid expansion is saving lives, but now that health insurance could be ripped away from individuals who desperately need coverage.

Instead of helping make insurance more affordable, this bill actually makes it more expensive, by scaling back tax credits and subsidies provided to individuals who are accessing coverage through the health insurance marketplace. This will have a disproportionate impact on older Montanans, as well as those at lower incomes. Studies show that Montanans who are buying insurance from the marketplace could see out-of-pocket costs (such as premiums, deductibles, and copays) increase by an average of $4,606.

One of the most damaging and long-lasting changes would be to the overall Medicaid program. The House bill is proposing deep cuts in federal Medicaid dollars. States, particularly rural states like Montana, will be forced to make devastating decisions, as Congress attempts to cut over $800 billion in federal Medicaid dollars. Today, one in four Montanans (over 240,000 individuals) receive coverage through Medicaid. Children, seniors, low-income pregnant women, and people with disabilities all rely upon Medicaid for affordable coverage. If this bill becomes law, tens of thousands of Montanans could face loss in coverage.

The House GOP amended the bill to also eliminate some of the most popular provisions of the ACA, including protections for individuals who have pre-existing conditions. States would receive almost automatic approval to waive the requirement that prohibits insurers from charging people higher premiums for coverage based on their health condition. Those with pre-existing conditions would face skyrocketing costs for insurance. According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, over 400,000 Montanans had a pre-existing condition in 2009, the most recent year of information.

If insurers were to charge people the full expected cost of their condition, an individual with metastatic cancer could face premiums exceeding $100,000, according to one analysis by the Center for American Progress. Having a baby, without any complications, could run more than $15,000 more in premiums per year. Montanans facing a pre-existing condition would almost certainly run the risk of losing coverage, as a result of outrageous premium costs.

Congress can and should consider ways to lower health care costs and continue to expand access to coverage. This bill is not it. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is time for each of us to tell Congress to do their job and protect the health care that Montanans need and deserve. The health care coverage of hundreds of thousands of Montanans hangs in the balance.

Heather O’Loughlin is co-director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center in Helena.

Policy Basics: Introduction to Who Pays Montana’s Taxes

Policy Basics is a series of background reports on issues related to the Montana budget and Montana taxes. The purpose of the Policy Basics series is to provide the public, advocates, and policy makers the tools they need to effectively engage in important fiscal policy debates that help shape the health and safety of our communities.

For generations, our tax dollars have served as shared investments in the programs and services that make our state a great place to live, work, and play. Tax dollars enable Montanans to work together for those things, which we cannot achieve alone – a quality education for our children, the development and maintenance of infrastructure, public safety through police and fire protection, and clean air and water. These shared investments pave the way to a stronger economy where every Montanan can thrive.

Read this report and see how Montana raises tax dollars and who shares in the costs of our public investments.

Position Announcement: Outreach and Communications Coordinator

Organizational and Position Background

The Montana Budget and Policy Center (MBPC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with the mission to advance responsible tax, budget, and economic policies through credible research and analysis in order to promote opportunity and fairness for all Montanans.

MBPC is seeking an Outreach and Communications Coordinator to organize efforts regarding a number of policy priorities including advocating for a fair tax structure and a responsible state budget that provides adequate revenue to invest in our communities and families. Reporting to the Co-Director of Public Affairs, this position will work collaboratively with the MBPC staff and coalition partners to develop and implement communication and outreach strategies to broaden the impact of MBPC’s initiatives.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Provide support for a statewide coalition focused on tax fairness and ensuring adequate revenue for a strong state budget
  • Assist in drafting of advocacy, educational, outreach, and lobbying materials
  • Support activities related to the legislative session, including, but not limited to: research and monitoring bills and committees, community education, rallies, and action alerts
  • Supporting the Co-Director in the planning and execution of organizational communications and outreach strategies
  • Assist with the organization’s web presence, including regular email communication, website, social media platforms, in a manner consistent with MBPC’s messaging
  • Synthesize technical information into relatable, simplified materials (e.g. talking points, action alerts, and policy updates)
  • Educate coalition participants and potential allies through a variety of communication channels to convey key information about the state’s budget, the importance of raising revenues fairly, and the coalition’s action agenda.
  • Initiate, build relationships, and recruit new coalition members from with members of the low-income, faith-based, business, and other relevant communities.

Required Experience and Education

  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills, including experience in public speaking and development of outreach materials
  • Sense of humor
  • Strong ability to work independently as well as in a collaborative environment
  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in communications, public policy, or a related field (advanced degree preferred)
  • Capacity to build and maintain relationships with a wide range of groups and individuals
  • Ability to prioritize, multi-task, and work at a high capacity in order to meet deadlines
  • Strong abilities in Microsoft Office Suite, outreach database systems, and Internet research tools
  • Experience in the state legislative process is preferred
  • Knowledge of data analysis or research capabilities is preferred
  • Knowledge of graphic design and web page tools (Illustrator, InDesign, WordPress, or other programs) is preferred

Position Details

The ideal candidate will work full time and be based in Helena. However, a truly outstanding candidate who is based elsewhere in Montana will be considered.

Montana Budget and Policy Center provides competitive salary and benefit packages within the non-profit sector, including health, retirement, and leave benefits. Applicants are encouraged to provide expected salary range.

To Apply:

To apply, submit a cover letter and resume by email (preferred) or mail to:

tjensen@montanabudget.org

-or-

Montana Budget and Policy Center

101 N. Last Chance Gulch, #220

Helena, MT 59601

The position is open until filled. Initial application review will include all applications received by August 10.

MBPC is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, religious or political affiliation, disability, and any other classification considered discriminatory under applicable law.