Head Start Cuts – ‘Budget Mess Means Wealthy Get Tax Breaks While WV Kids Suffer’

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Critics of Head Start cuts say partisan battles over the budget mean the U.S continues to waste money on tax breaks for the wealthy at the cost of West Virginia children. Bill Johnson of South Charleston says he’s frustrated that Wall Street hedge-fund traders are still getting a big tax break when therapy his 3-year-old autistic daughter depends on is threatened by budget cuts. Marissa is at a stage where her entire ability to communicate could be threatened if she loses the services she gets from Head Start, he said.

“A year and a half ago this child was completely non-verbal. She’s now doing sign language, even starting to speak. If that had not occurred with Head Start, she would have been two and a half years without services,” Johnson said.

Sequestration – automatic cuts triggered by Congress’s failure to find a budget compromise – have meant cuts to Head Start, with more on the way. Nationally, Head Start is serving 57,000 fewer children this year than last, 500 of them in West Virginia. According to Americans for Tax Fairness, the cuts to Head Start are about the same size as a tax break for corporate jets, and just one-tenth the size of a big loophole used by hedge-fund traders.

Former state Democratic party chairman Nick Casey is running for Congress in West Virginia’s 2nd District.

“Are our priorities to give tax credits to traders on the New York Stock Exchange?,” Casey asked. “I don’t think mine are. When you have those conversations as the budget is developed, you don’t have this nonsense of ‘Oh, we don’t have enough money, so let’s cut everything across the board.'”

Casey said the arguments for keeping the tax breaks should be made when Congress goes through the budget process. He added that the problem is that Congress hasn’t actually written a budget for more than three years, which means they make bad budget decisions more or less by default.

“Do we cut Head Start or do we cut the money we pay to war contractors? If cuts are appropriate, and I think they are, where? Not on feeding hungry kids.”

Conservatives have said more needs to be done to reduce the deficit, but others have pointed out that the deficit has actually fallen by more than half in the last four years, and also argue that the big tax breaks have been largely untouched.

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