WASHINGTON — The Arkansas congressional delegation offered a cool response to the $3.9 trillion budget plan offered Tuesday by President Barack Obama that he called a blueprint for his “opportunity agenda.”
“It’s a roadmap for creating jobs with good wages and expanding opportunity for all Americans. And at a time when our deficits have been cut in half, it allows us to meet our obligations to future generations without leaving them a mountain of debt,” Obama said.
Arkansas Republicans saw it differently, saying it would increase the federal government, raise taxes and balloon the deficit.
“If President Obama’s budget proposal was enacted, it would turn the clock back on the little progress we have made toward reining in Washington’s reckless spending,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., offered a mixed review. On one hand, he supported Obama for dropping a previous plan that would reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security. But, other proposals raised concerns.
“Once again, we see lopsided tax increases, as well as cuts to the Corps of Engineers, the Small Business Administration and drinking water improvement programs, to name a few,” he said. “We should responsibly cut our spending by making smart cuts to government programs, eliminating inefficiencies and working together to implement policies that will secure our nation’s economic future.”
Much of the focus Tuesday was on the overall plan as lawmakers and their staffs reviewed the thousands of pages of documents that detail the budget plan.
Among the details that emerged, however, was a Pentagon proposal to stop upgrading the avionics of its C-130 cargo planes — a program important to the Little Rock Air Force Base that was targeted last year as well.
“President Obama is once again proposing to end the AMP without providing Congress with continually requested information on the cost effectiveness of its elimination. Fortunately, his budget proposal is widely acknowledged as being dead on arrival,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock.
Congress passed a two-year budget agreement last year that locked in spending levels through 2015, leaving lawmakers little incentive to act on Obama’s latest request.
Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she hopes Republicans will consider additional investments in education, infrastructure and job training.
“These investments would be spread equally across defense and non-defense programs and would be paid for with a mix of responsible spending cuts and new revenue,” she said.
The ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, blasted Obama’s proposal as reckless, saying it would spend $56 billion more in 2015 than was agreed to in Congress just two months ago. He also complained that it would add $8.3 trillion to the debt over the next decade.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, slammed the budget.
“The President calls for more spending and more taxes, and he fails to demonstrate the leadership for which the American people are looking and take steps towards getting our fiscal house in order,” he said.
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, dismissed it as laughable.
“Today, President Obama presented his most unserious budget to date, continuing to place an immoral burden on the backs of future generations with more out-of-control spending that will only add to our national debt,” Cotton said. “Under the president’s proposal, Arkansans would see their taxes go up and their savings go down.”
Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, repeated his call for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
“As far as I’m concerned, the budgets of both parties are doomed to fail until we impose permanent spending controls that force Congress to act responsibly,” he said. “Decades of broken promises by politicians in Washington should lead us all to the conclusion that permanent spending controls are the only solution.”
Boozman said Obama was trekking down the same budget path that has led him to a dead end in the past.
“Just as it has been in previous years, it’s safe to predict that the only vote in favor of the President’s budget will be his own,” he said.