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Editorial: Federal budget deal is worth supporting

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte were both in New Hampshire this week talking about the new bipartisan federal budget plan that recently passed the House. Their messages were starkly different.

Shaheen, who supports the deal, told workers at BAE Systems in Nashua, “While the bipartisan budget isn’t the exact budget I would have crafted, I will support the measure because it’s good for jobs and our economy. This budget will create certainty for small businesses and families and help boost economic growth, create jobs and avoid another government shutdown. It represents the kind of compromise and cooperation that people in New Hampshire and across the country expect from their leaders in Washington.”

Ayotte, who opposes the deal, gathered with veterans in Merrimack to decry cuts to military retiree benefits – an element of the plan she has called a deal-breaker. “Military retirees are being unfairly singled out in this budget deal. We need to stand with the brave men and women who have defended our nation, and the cuts to military retiree benefits need to be replaced. We can find $6 billion to replace these cuts instead of asking our military retirees to sacrifice even more, and I’m working to replace these unfair cuts.”

Then yesterday, when the Senate gathered to take an initial, procedural vote on the budget bill, the senators did as they said: Shaheen voted yes, Ayotte no.

In this case, Shaheen is right. When the Senate takes a final vote on the measure, Ayotte – who drew broad praise a few weeks back for her role in ending the government shutdown and chastising grandstanders from her own party – should reconsider.

At issue is a budget deal struck by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. It sets government spending levels for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, replacing most of the across-the-board budget cuts with a mix of targeted spending cuts and revenue increases. Most important, it ends the threat of another government shutdown circus.

Ayotte’s objection is to an element of the plan that slows the rate of increase in cost-of-living adjustments to military retirees. The measure applies to those retirees who serve 20 years and retire before age 62. Ryan has defended the measure as modest, and as a way to protect the military from more dramatic cuts.

He also points to the measure’s “catchup provision,” which means that at age 62, a retiree’s pension goes up to where it would have been without the COLA reduction. But in the meantime, that gap means that retirees would take a significant financial hit over time.

Reasonable people can disagree over whether military retirees are being treated unfairly. But the measure won’t even take effect until 2016. Ayotte and like-minded senators could vote for the broader budget deal now and work to reverse the pension measure afterward.

Indeed, Ryan said he and Murray purposely delayed implementation to give Congress time to come up with comparable savings from alternative means. As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, Ayotte is in a strong position to work on this issue.

And, in fact, Shaheen announced late yesterday that she would sponsor legislation to undo the problem: She would make up the cost savings from the military pensions by eliminating select corporate tax loopholes.

Not long ago Ayotte chided holdout Republicans for playing games with the federal budget and the national economy. She was right then.

Compromise is important. There’s no reason now for her to reject a deal that will go a long way toward restoring faith in Congress’s ability to conduct the affairs of state with some level of seriousness.

Legacy Comments3

Senators Coburn's annual "WASTE BOOK" is out again. There is plenty of waste to be eliminated to pay the retirees benefits. democrats will NOT allow that to happen. There you have it - OBSTRUCTIONIST DEMOCRATS again prefer waste over funding military retirees pensions

Can't agree. $5B was cut from the benefits of disabled veterans while Harry Reid would not allow a vote on an amendment to stope $5B in child tax credits (it is against the law) for illegal aliens. But from this years "Wastebook" here are some examples of how we could have done better. "Beachfront property for millionaires -- $500 million: A U.S. Department of Agriculture home loan program, created to help people with low and moderate incomes afford a home in "rural areas," has been used by many millionaires in resort communities in tropical paradises like Hawaii. According to the report, more than 100 individuals or families received loan guarantees for $500,000 or more from the USDA to purchase a home in Hawaii. And here's the kicker, "if these new homeowners later cannot afford their new homes it's no problem, the federal government will protect the banks from losses by repaying 90 percent of the loans," the report says. Last year, it paid nearly $500 million in lost claims. Botched blimp -- $300 million: The Army spent three-and-a-half years and nearly $300 million building a football field-sized blimp called the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, to provide continuous surveillance over Afghanistan battlefields, but the project was riddled with errors and cost-overruns so the Army eventually just sold it back to the contractor. NASA's "Pillownauts" -- $360,000: During the shutdown, 97 percent of NASA's staff was laid off, still the agency was paying 20 people $18,000 each to literally lie around and do nothing for 70 days with their body "slightly tilted forward" for a study to help scientists learn how astronauts bodies will change in space flight. However, NASA isn't planning any missions anytime in the foreseeable future, since it no longer has a manned space program. . . so the people getting paid to lie in bed all day might as well keep dreaming. Fort Hood shooter on federal payroll -- $53,000: Alleged Fort Hood Shooter Major Nadal Hasson continues to get paid federal salary since the Military Code of Justice doesn't allow a soldier to be suspended until they are found guilty. He made $52,952 in 2013 and $278,000 total since he allegedly killed 13 and injured 32 in 2009. Looking for intelligent life. . . in Congress -- $3 million: Since NASA's space program has been grounded, it's left to search for intelligent life on Earth. Curiously enough, it has chosen to explore Capitol Hill and the inner workings of Congress. Teaming up with Georgetown University, NASA will embark on its next mission of hosting a one-week seminar exploring how Congress works. Almost as complicated and mysterious as the solar system? Television ads for Hurricane Sandy -- $65 million: Of the $60.4 billion Congress appropriated for areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy, at least $65 million was put toward local television ads. Instead of rushing aid to the people who need it most, state-level officials in New York and New Jersey spent the money on tourism-related TV advertisements. "Making this particularly vexing for some local residents, the flow of disaster aid has been both paltry and slow" the report said. Duplicate IT systems -- $321 million: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spent over $30 million on two IT programs that serve the same purpose. Both support "immigration enforcement booking management," which includes the processing of apprehended illegal aliens suspected of committing criminal violations of immigration law. However, DHS said it has no plans to address the duplicative expenditures. Similar problems have accorded at DOD, where the Air Force has two duplicative IT systems. In fact, according to a recent GAO report, three agencies have spent $321 million for overlapping IT purposes over the past several years. Bureau of Print and Engraving ruined new $100 bills -- $4 million: The new $100 bills came out in October after several setbacks pushed back their release date. One of the latest incidents happened in the fall, when too much ink was applied to the paper (known as "mashing"). As a result, the Federal Reserve returned the bills to the Bureau and demanded a refund. The incident cost the taxpayer about $4 million. Sprucing up one block in Kansas -- $500,000: The Department of Transportation awarded Rossville, Kan. -- a tiny town with a population of 1,150 -- a grant of $532,000 to make one-block in the downtown area "more decorative and colorful." According to the report, the "decorative and colorful improvements to one-street block in Rossville, Kansas cost U.S. taxpayers $462 per resident of Rossville or $38,000 for each of the 14 businesses located on this block of Main Street." Hopefully now taxpayers across the country will swarm to Rossville to enjoy the block they helped pay for. NASA's 3-D pizza printer -- $125,000: NASA awarded a $124,955 grant to Arjun Contractor to build a 3-D pizza printer. The space agency spends about $1 million on "Martian food development." According to the report, a NASA scientist involved in the 3-D printer pizza said it could be years until the creation becomes feasible. Too bad, it sounds out of this world"

I wonder if the report lists shutting down the government, then voting to give every worker all back pay BUT still telling them they could not come back to work. You just can't get more wasteful than that.....I sure hope Concord NH is in the report - Main St., Loudon Rd., Sewalls Falls Bridge...... Any questions as to why nothing ever happens after these waste reports come out, its because everyone has their hands out for the free tax dollars.

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