What: All Issues : Education, Humanities, & the Arts : General Education Funding : S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Sanders of Vermont amendment bolstering federal funding for special education programs/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 94)
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S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Sanders of Vermont amendment bolstering federal funding for special education programs/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 94     Mar 22, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on an amendment by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would have increased federal funding for special education by $44.2 billion over the next 5 years. It would pay for this increase by rolling back income tax cuts given to the wealthiest Americans in 2001 (those whose income exceeds $1 million annually). It was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress' budget priorities in fiscal 2008. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.

Sanders said his amendment is an attempt to hold the federal government to a promise made in 1975 when Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which ensures educational services are available to children with disabilities.

Sanders said the law was passed with the understanding that the federal government would pay for up to 40 percent of the nation's special education needs. But Sanders said the federal government today only actually provides 17 percent. As a result, local school districts have had to pick up the tab, mostly through raising property taxes, Sanders said.

"When members of Congress on both sides of the aisle talk about unfunded mandates, the inadequate funding for special education is the poster child of that problem. We told school districts we would fund special education at 40 percent, and we are funding it at 17 percent. That is wrong. That speaks poorly of Congress," Sanders said.

Judd Gregg, R-N.H., opposed the amendment, saying that while special education is an important priority, raising taxes by $44 billion isn't the best way to fund it.

"To raise taxes $44 billion is a pretty big tax increase. You can throw out the word ‘millionaire.' What we are talking about here are small businesspeople. Eighty-three percent of the people who would be hit by the top rate are small businesspeople," Gregg said. He also said the tax cuts have encouraged entrepreneurialism that has created jobs and economic activity, which translates into more tax revenues.

The amendment was defeated 38-58. The Senate's most progressive Democrats voted for the amendment, but some 11 sided with Republicans in defeating it. Thus, the budget resolution went forward without language that would have added more than $44 billion in spending on special education programs by rolling back tax cuts for very wealthy Americans.

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