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White Plains Forum Scorns Republicans' Fed. Budget

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - After teaching at New York City and Yonkers public schools, White Plains resident Cora Miles said she knows firsthand how essential investing in education is. Her philosophy that education “determines your whole society” clashed with what she saw in the budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, which prompted Miles to attend the Westchester Community Forum on Federal Budget Priorities Wednesday night.

“I’m really concerned about the budget, it’s a fiasco,” said Cora Miles, a retired teacher. “Taxes should be lower and proportional. If you have more, you should pay more. I think they’re really scapegoating the middle class people and people with less money. Their motives are un-American. They say education is a priority. So what do they do? They pull the funds.”

Miles joined about 50 others in the Mapleton Conference Center on Our Lady of Good Counsel Campus to listen to speakers discuss how the Republican-dominated house’s fiscal year 2012 budget would affect Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, housing programs, and education. The attendees then discussed ways to sway local senators to invest in more job creation programs, cut military spending, and reverse many of the education and health care policies put forth in the house’s budget.

Mark Dunlea, the executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, said his organization has never gotten involved in the federal budget process before. However, proposals to change food stamp administration to a grant-block system where each state has a set amount of money allocated for the program, which Dunlea said may limit how many people are served, concerned the Hunger Action Network. Right now, the federal government pays a percentage of each state's food stamp costs and serves every eligible user.

“If the house budget went through it would be devastating,” said Dunlea, who has worked at the Hunger Action Network for 25 years. “This is so massive. Their talking about ending the entitlement status of the food stamp program and Medicaid is under attack. We just said, ‘We can’t ignore this situation.”’

Dunlea, who spoke at the forum, said the government should be less focused on curbing spending.

“Macroeconomics 101 is when you’re in a recession, in order to get the economy moving again, you have to spend money,” said Dunlea, a Brooklyn resident. “The senate will never agree to a budget as bad as the house, but how bad will they allow it to be? We need to say, ‘You guys are really barking up the wrong tree here. Listen to the polls.’ The biggest issues are jobs and the economy.”

The forum, which was organized by WESPAC , the Economic Security Campaign of Westchester, Westchester Disabled on the Move Inc. , Community Voices Heard, and other local organizations, also attracted those like Zac Chavez, 29, who had less defined political goals.

“I came to learn,” said Chavez, a Greenwich resident. “There are some relatively large decisions being made, so I feel like it’s my responsibility to weigh in.”

What are your thoughts on the ongoing federal budget negotiations? What would you like to see in the 2012 budget? Should the government limit spending and address the deficit? Should the budget tackle unemployment with job creation programs and hiring incentives? Email your thoughts to strangle@thedailywhiteplains.com or fill us in via Facebook and Twitter , and we'll include your responses in future budget coverage.

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