February 11, 2013

Dear Member of Congress:

As Congress faces the debt ceiling, fiscal year 2013 spending bills, sequestration, and the fiscal year 2014 budget, the following 3,200 national, state, and local organizations urge you to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to discretionary programs. The approach to deficit reduction has thus far been unbalanced. Discretionary programs have contributed $1.5 trillion in spending cuts from the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution, the bipartisan Budget Control Act, and the bipartisan American Taxpayer Relief Act, while revenues have contributed just $600 billion. Additional cuts in discretionary programs would put the health, education, safety, and security of all Americans at risk.

Discretionary programs are funded annually by Congress through the appropriations process and generally fall into two categories: "defense discretionary," which includes the Pentagon's budget; and "nondefense discretionary" (NDD), which includes everything else. NDD programs are core functions government provides for the benefit of all, including medical and scientific research; education and job training; infrastructure; public safety and law enforcement; public health; weather monitoring and environmental protection; natural and cultural resources; housing and social services; and international relations. Every day these programs support economic growth and strengthen the safety and security of every American in every state and community across the nation.

Spending on these programs is not "out of control." On the contrary, NDD programs--cut by $900 billion already--represent a small and shrinking share of the federal budget and of our overall economy. For example, NDD programs represented just 3.4 percent of our country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011, consistent with historical levels. Under the funding caps established in the bi-partisan Budget Control Act, by 2021 NDD programs will decline to just 2.5 percent of GDP, the lowest level in at least 50 years.

Continued cuts will have consequences for every American, threatening the health, safety, and competiveness of the United States. Americans may be left waiting longer for help after natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. They may be more susceptible to deadly infectious diseases, like the West Nile virus, Hantavirus, and meningitis. With fewer air traffic controllers, flights may be curtailed or safety compromised. Classroom size may increase as teachers are laid off. National parks will have fewer visitor hours or may close altogether. Roads and bridges will continue to crumble. Our communities will lack the necessary resources to protect our families, to prevent future crimes and to apprehend and prosecute violent criminals. Promising research will be curtailed, compromising our global position as a scientific leader.

Discretionary programs support our economy, bolster our global competitiveness, and provide an environment where all Americans have the opportunity to lead healthy, safe, and productive lives. Only a balanced approach to deficit reduction can restore fiscal stability, and these programs have done their part. We urge you to work together to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to these critical programs.

See the full list of signatories at http://bit.ly/11Bzd0t.

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