Officials, experts consider effects of federal funding cuts on city

City officials gathered in City Hall last night to discuss the impact of President George W. Bush’s ’68 $2.57 trillion budget on New Haven programs.

Experts and advocates from across the state gave presentations on how the cuts in federal funding will reduce the city’s programs for childcare, health care and housing. Approximately 17 percent, or $2.47 billion, of the Connecticut state budget comes from federal funding.

Connecticut Voices for Children spokesman Colin Gershawn encouraged members of the audience to write to U.S. senators — including Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 from Connecticut — who have not yet taken a strong position on the budget.

“We must oppose this budget,” Gershawn said, “The simple message is not to make deep cuts.”

Greg Speeter of the National Priorities Project gave an extensive overview of how federal money is being spent and what it means for domestic programs. Speeter estimated that the two years of war in Iraq have cost New Haven $100 million. With that money, Speeter said, New Haven could have built 732 housing units or hired 354 teachers for four years.

Overall, he said discretionary aid to the state and communities will be down $138 million and the No Child Left Behind Program in Connecticut will lose $104 million.

Cynthia Newton, executive director of the Housing Authority of the city of New Haven, said her staff is expected to lose 33 of its 130 members if the budget passes.

“We aggressively try after any federal grants, but the reality is that they aren’t there,” Newton said. “This budget is horrific for housing in New Haven.”

The Housing Authority is expected to lose $1.4 million, a reduction which Newton said will make it difficult to keep the same level of service.

With $541 billion spent on military offense, Speeter suggested that Bush develop a better way to deal with international issues, such as strengthening international institutions like the United Nations and spending money on locating and purchasing Russia’s missing nuclear weapons.

Of that $541 billion, Speeter sharply criticized the federal government for spending $72 billion on buying what he called outdated Cold War weapons such as a $260 millon F-22 fighter jet.

“Instead of using that $72 billion on buying cold-war weapons, we could get health insurance for every child in the country and still have money leftover,” Speeter said. “We need new ways of thinking about security.”

Art Prolo, a spokesperson for the Coalition to End Child Poverty in Connecticut, challenged Bush’s tax proposal, saying the money could be used to reduce the disparity between high- and low-income children. Connecticut has the largest achievement gaps in the nation between high- and low-income youth, Prolo said.

“With the amount the richest four percent are getting in tax cuts, we have more than enough to alleviate that gap,” Prolo said.

The budget is currently being debated by Congress.

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