|TRAFICANT, James A., Jr.,|
Tuesday, February 3, 1998
Washington, D.C. – U. S. Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr. (D–OH) today expressed cautious support for the fiscal 1999 federal budget presented to Congress yesterday by President Clinton. While Traficant applauded the fact that the President presented the first balanced budget in 30 years, he cautioned that the linchpin of the President's budget is a settlement with tobacco companies whose future is anything but certain. "Both the President and Congress need to ensure that we don't spend surpluses or settlement payments that have yet to materialize. Before I support any budget plan, someone has to show me the money."
Traficant said he supports many of the new programs proposed by the President, but wants to ensure that, before spending a dime on any new initiatives, Congress stabilizes existing programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and transportation infrastructure. Traficant supports the President's proposals to increase federal child care and development programs, provide a child care tax break, increase Head Start funding, provide federal grants to hire an additional 100,000 elementary school teachers, subsidize local school construction bonds, and increase funding for AIDS treatment and research programs.
Traficant is supportive, in principle, of the President's proposal to allow uninsured people between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into the Medicare system by paying a monthly premium. However, he is concerned that the premiums will not be enough to cover the costs, and the plan will end up exacerbating the financial problems facing Medicare and endanger health benefits for senior citizens.
Traficant opposes some of the President's new proposals including the restoration of food stamp benefits for some immigrants, full payment of U.S. dues to the United Nations, and additional U.S. funding for the International Monetary Fund.
Traficant agrees with the President that future budget surpluses should be reserved for saving the Social Security system. However, he believes that a small portion of future surpluses should be invested in the nation's transportation infrastructure. "Our competitors in Asia and Europe are investing significantly more, in terms of their GNPs, in transportation," noted Traficant, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "The level of federal investment outlined in the President's budget is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of our country – in the short and long term. How can we, as a nation, build a bridge to the 21st century if we can't even build a bridge over the Mahoning River?"
Traficant also cautioned that the President's budget only balances if a settlement with tobacco companies is approved this year by Congress. The settlement would provide federal coffers with $65 billion over the next five years. However, it is uncertain whether or not a settlement package will be approved by Congress this year. "If a settlement is not approved, there will be a $10 billion hole in the fiscal 1999 budget," noted Traficant. "Any additional spending should be contingent upon the approval of a tobacco settlement."
While Traficant is supportive of programs to assist working families in meeting child care costs, he believes that "the President continues to nip at the margins of the tax code – providing targeted tax breaks here and there, without tackling the real problem: the tax code itself. The time has come for bold action to throw out the entire code and start from scratch," said Traficant. "Congress needs to take an innovative approach to tax reform. The goal should be twofold: simplify and create more incentives for investment and economic growth." Traficant has authored legislation to establish a low flat tax on personal income and corporate earnings, coupled with a modest national sales tax on certain retail goods.
On immigration issues, Traficant hailed the President's commitment to do more to stop illegal immigration and the flow of drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border. Traficant also supported the President's proposal to hire an additional 1,000 Border Patrol agents. But Traficant noted that the Immigration and Naturalization Service is still having a difficult time recruiting, training and retaining the additional Border Patrol agents mandated by Congress last year. Traficant is the lead supporter in Congress of expanding the role of the military in supporting federal law enforcement along the border.
"The fact is that it will take years to hire and deploy the number of Border Patrol and Customs Service agents the President's own drug czar has stated are needed to effectively stop the flow drugs coming across the border," said Traficant. "Using our military as a stopgap measure is common sense approach to one of the gravest threats facing our nation. I am disappointed that the President's budget does not address this issue." Traficant intends to continue pushing Congress to adopt his legislation authorizing an expanded role for the military in patrolling the border.2009