Friday, March 23, 2007

Sanders Bill To Cut Taxes, Fund Special Education, Defeated

A disgusting vote took place in the Senate yesterday and, after I give you the basics, I'll turn you over to David Sirota, who has done an excellent job laying all of this out and can provide further detail.

When the Individuals With Disabilities Act was passed in 1975, the legislation said that the Federal government would provide up to 40 percent of the national average, per pupil, for special education in America's schools. According to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the government's contribution today is barely 17 percent, leaving the program woefully under-funded.

Calling the shortfall in money for special education the "poster child" of unfunded mandates, Sanders explains how the difference is made up at the local level:
"When the federal government does not keep its word, school districts in my state, school districts in your state and throughout this country are forced to do one of three things. Either they do not provide the quality of special education care that the special-needs kids require -- and that is wrong. Or else, their limited budgets require them to cut back on other educational programs in order to fund the expensive needs of special ed kids.

"So what ends up happening is we take money from second languages, we take money from athletics, we take money from arts and we put it into special education and all of the children suffer as a result of that.

"And the third option facing school districts -- which certainly is taking place in Vermont and I expect all over this country -- is that school districts are forced to ask for higher and higher property taxes. And those property taxes are becoming so high in areas of this country that people who have lived in their homes for their entire lives are now being forced to leave their homes.

"The property tax is a regressive form of taxation. It hits working families very hard and unfairly, it hits senior citizens unfairly and more and more communities around this country are forced to raise property taxes which are putting an increased burden on middle class families."
So Sanders proposed S.Amdt. 545, which was intended to "restore the top marginal tax rate to pre-2001 levels on taxable income in excess of $1 million and use the increased revenue to increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act."

Simply put, yesterday's vote on S.Amdt. 545 was to provide almost $22 billion in property tax relief by having the government keep the promise it made to Americans in 1975 and do that by bringing the income tax rate for millionaires back to what it was before George W Bush roared into town with years of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Seems fair, doesn’t it?

Apparently not to the U.S. Senate, where the Sanders bill was defeated 38-58, with every single Republican voting to screw middle-class homeowners and special-needs kids for the sake of the richest among us.

But that's not the worst part. The GOP won this with 11 Democrats going along with them. They are:
  • Max Baucus (D-MT)
  • Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Tom Carper (D-DE)
  • Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
  • Bill Nelson (D-FL)
  • Ben Nelson (D-NE)
  • Ken Salazar (D-CO)
  • Jon Tester (D-MT)
  • Jim Webb (D-VA)
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR)
David Sirota has more in his excellent write-up at Working For Change, including a nice itemization of how much money Republican Senators running for reelection in 2008 could have saved middle-class homeowners in their states if they gave a damn about them. As David says, this will be great ammunition in the next election cycle.

A very discouraging vote, but big kudos to Senator Sanders for fighting the good fight on this.