The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the $436 million fiscal year 2019 operating budget.
The budget is $8 million larger than last year’s budget, due to increased revenue from use and occupational taxes. According to the mayor’s office, 133 vacant jobs were cut from the budget, saving the city $4.7 million.
Despite the larger budget, Mayor Randall Woodfin said there still wasn’t enough money for street paving or additional funding for Birmingham City Schools.
U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) will play in the 10th Annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game tomorrow, June 20, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
This beloved tradition began in 2009 after Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida was diagnosed with breast cancer. Each year, female members of Congress face members of the Washington, D.C., press corps to raise funds and awareness for the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), an organization that addresses a variety of issues unique to young women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Each year, the players honor real women who are battling cancer. This year, Representative Roby will be playing for Courtney Pruitt, a Montgomery native and recent Alabama Christian Academy graduate who is currently undergoing intense treatment to fight leukemia. Courtney is the daughter of Representative Roby’s dear friend and Montgomery City Councilman Glen Pruitt.
“This year marks the tenth consecutive year female members from both sides of the aisle have come together for the Congressional Women’s Softball Game to support young women battling cancer,” Representative Roby said. “I’m proud to be involved in this great event again this year, and I truly believe it demonstrates what we can accomplish when we put our differences aside to rally for a worthy cause. I am honored to play for my dear friend’s daughter Courtney as she continues to courageously battle this disease.”
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Roby is partnering with Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-PA, to repeal a provision that reduces working-age military pensions beginning in 2015 and replace it with a measure to prevent illegal aliens from receiving fraudulent cash payments from the government in the form of the Refundable Child Tax Credit.
“There are many good things in the budget agreement passed by Congress: setting a sustainable path of controlled federal spending, preventing some of the harmful sequestration cuts to our military, and returning Congress to regular order to end the days of massive temporary spending bills passed at the last minute,” Roby said in a statement. “However, the final product was not what I would have drafted, and House members were not given the opportunity to improve the bill through amendments on the floor. One provision that is particularly troublesome is the one percent reduction in the cost of living adjustment for working age military retirees beginning in 2015. Just look at the vast federal government that is rife with waste. Are reductions to military benefits really the best place for Congress to make cuts? I don’t think so, and I that’s why I believe that provision should be removed.”
The legislation introduced today in the House – H.R. 3788 – is a compliment to an amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, during debate on the budget plan in the Senate. It removes the cost-of-living increase reduction and replaces it with a measure closing a tax loophole that allows ineligible, non-citizens to receive fraudulent cash payments in the form of a Refundable Child Tax Credit.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that closing this loophole by simply requiring the recipients of this taxpayer-funded credit to be eligible citizens would save as much as $7 billion, more than enough to offset the $6 billion gleaned from altering military retiree pensions.
According to a 2011 report form the Treasury Inspector General, “Millions of people are seeking this tax credit who, we believe, are not entitled to it. We have made recommendations to the IRS as to how they could address this, and they have not taken sufficient action in our view to solve the problem.”
The Treasury Inspector General went on to say that “the payment of Federal funds through this tax benefit appears to provide an additional incentive for aliens to enter, reside, and work in the United States without authorization, which contradicts Federal law and policy to remove such incentives.”
“Today I am joining Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and others in the House to offer a companion bill to Sen. Sessions’ commonsense amendment,” Roby said. “I believe that this is a fix the Republican Conference can rally around. I have personally contacted the House leadership this morning to give voice to the concerns of military retirees in my district who feel singled out by the budget agreement. I am strongly encouraging our leaders to use the Christmas week as an opportunity to build support for this or similar legislation so that we can pass it upon our return in January. In my opinion, it should be the first item on the docket for 2014.”
Roby to constituents upset she voted for budget deal: ‘I don’t blame you’
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, took to Facebook Wednesday to respond to constituents who are expressing frustration and discontent with the Ryan-Murray budget deal that passed both the House and Senate in recent days.
Alabama’s representatives in the U.S. House voted in favor of the deal 5-1, with Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, casting the only dissenting vote. However, in the upper chamber, both Sens. Shelby and Sessions voted against the deal.
Shelby tends to vote against any piece of legislation that violates the Budget Control Act of 2011, which capped 2014 discretionary spending at $967 billion. The Ryan-Murray budget smashes through that cap.
Conservative groups in Washington and around the country have been extremely critical of the deal by pointing out that it does little to set the country on a path to fiscal sanity, especially when it comes to entitlements.
Republicans who voted in favor of the deal say they believe Republicans stand the best chance of winning in the longterm by taking a potential government shutdown off the table and keeping the focus on ObamaCare’s failures.
Rep. Roby addresses several of those points in her Facebook post, which can be read in full below.
I have heard from several who are displeased with the recent budget agreement, particularly as it concerns cost of living increases for military retirees.
This measure represents the first time that Washington has operated with a budget during divided government in 27 years. The legislation sets overall discretionary spending levels at $1.012 trillion, returning non-defense spending to Bush-era levels and restoring some, but not all, military funding cut by sequestration. One of the offsets used in the bill to find savings involved reducing by 1% the annual automatic cost-of-living increases given to working-age military retirees starting in 2015. That means those who have retired from the service but are between the ages of 40-62 will still get a cost of living increase, it will just be one percent less. Once you turn 62, the increases go back up to their original rate.
It is important to note that the plan in no way affects the base pension payment, veterans’ disability benefits, or the benefits of any retiree over the age of 62.
I don’t blame those who are upset about this. The plan is far from ideal. I would much prefer more of the savings come from elsewhere, including long-overdue mandatory spending reforms. I understand that people count on these cost of living increases, even if they are still working.
The fact is the agreement restores more than $30 billion in sequestration cuts to the military. That is very significant. That funding goes straight toward preventing furloughs and restoring our military readiness. The alternative would mean more furloughs, more corrosion of our military readiness, and new threats of a harmful government shutdown. My choice was not an easy one to make, but I believe in the long run that it was the right choice given the alternative.
So what do you think? Was it smart for Republicans to go along with this deal, or should they have fought for more?
Although it sailed through the House on a bipartisan vote of 332-94, Senate Democratic leaders indicated over the weekend that the bill’s passage is far from secured in the upper chamber.
“The struggle is still on in the United States Senate,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, told Fox News on Sunday.
But progress was made on Monday, leading aides on both sides of the aisle to predict that they will have the 60 votes needed to pass a procedural motion on Tuesday. They will then move move for final passage later in the week, which requires only a simple majority.
Many Senate Republicans have cited the fact that the budget deal exceeds the Budget Control Act of 2011 as grounds for opposing it. The Budget Control Act capped 2014 discretionary spending at $967 billion. The Ryan-Murray budget smashes through that cap.
“I’d really like to stay within the (spending) caps,” complained Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas. “This busts the caps and as a result I’ll vote against it.”
But Sessions and several of his Republican colleagues have chosen to focus their attention on the cuts to military retirees and vets.
“We need to find a better way to save $6 billion than take it out of the hides of our retired veterans,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi.
Sessions’ plan to rescue veterans benefits involves saving money by closing a tax credit loophole that watchdog groups say has been frequently exploited by illegal immigrants.
The fix is simple. Applicants seeking to receive the child tax credit would have to submit their Social Security numbers. That way the IRS could easily weed out the illegal aliens taking advantage of the system. Sessions’ amendment would save the federal government roughly $4.2 billion, freeing up room for veterans benefits to remain at higher levels.
The handwringing in D.C. has already commenced with a budget deadline looming on Jan. 15. If a deal is not reached by then, another partial government shutdown will ensue.