WASHINGTON -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today questioned the Bush Administration’s commitment to small businesses during a Senate hearing on the President’s fiscal year 2006 budget proposal for the Small Business Administration (SBA).

“The President’s rhetoric on small business doesn’t square with this crippling budget proposal,” Kerry said. “Over the last four years, President Bush has cut the SBA’s budget by more than one-third, leaving our entrepreneurs struggling for access to credit, federal contracts, and adequate training.”

Kerry made his comments at a Committee hearing on the SBA’s budget, where he heard testimony from several witnesses including: Hector Barreto, Administrator of the SBA; John R. Massaua, State Director of the Maine Small Business Development Center (SBDC); David Coit, Managing Director of North Atlantic Capital of Portland, Maine; Daniel Betancourt, CEO of the Community First Fund of Central Pennsylvania; Patricia Sands, owner of Spill-Guard of Arlington, Virginia; and Edward “Eddie” Tuvin, First Vice President of Community South Bank of Tennessee. Since 2001, the SBA’s budget has been cut from $900 million to this year’s request of $593 million. The President’s fiscal year 2006 budget proposal for SBA is an $85 million decrease from the fiscal year 2005 budget proposal. This year’s budget proposal for the SBA:

§ eliminates the Small Business Investment Company Participating Securities program;

§ eliminates the Microloan program;

§ eliminates the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME);

§ eliminates grants for about 50 percent of Women’s Business Centers (WBCs);

§ cuts $1 million from the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs);

§ cuts 20 percent from SBA’s Native American outreach assistance;

§ provides no funding for the 7(a) loan program, instead increases fees for lenders; and

§ again provides zero funding for Business Information Centers (BICs), the New Market Venture Capital (NMVC) program, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Rural Outreach Program (ROP) and Federal and State Technology (FAST) program, and the BusinessLINC program. In addition, the President’s budget targets programs that help small manufacturers by cutting $62 million (57 percent) from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and eliminating the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) at the Department of Commerce.