WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Finance and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal:

“With our gross federal debt exceeding $14 trillion and projected to reach 100 percent of our Gross Domestic Product by the end of 2011, the most significant task for the 112th Congress is indeed to rein in the burgeoning deficits and return the federal budget to fiscal sanity.  However the President’s proposal, which includes $8.7 trillion in new spending and would double debt held by the public by the end of his term and triple it ten years after he was sworn in, falls woefully short when it comes to prioritizing policies and fulfilling our economic imperative to reduce federal spending and shrink the nation’s unsustainable debt.  Moreover, I am extremely concerned this budget proposal has once again deferred leadership on critical, long-term structural debt issues for future Congresses and generations to tackle, increasing spending this year to its highest level since World War II at a record $3.8 trillion.   That is why I call on the President to convene a summit at the White House that includes the leaders of the House and Senate to address our fiscal imperative to rein in government spending once and for all on a bipartisan, bicameral, and sustainable basis – rather than perpetuating a political agenda on a matter that is integral to America’s future. 

“Specifically, the President’s proposal increases taxes by $1.6 trillion on American families and businesses while slashing critical assistance to Maine’s low-income families, including an unsustainable 49 percent reduction in home heating assistance.   On the whole, this budget ignores the economic realities that families cannot afford to shoulder the two-fold burden of tax hikes and cuts to vital necessities like heat during the cold winter months as we continue to struggle out of an economic morass.   

“The reality is that our debt crisis requires a comprehensive solution beyond simply freezing non-defense discretionary spending.  As discretionary spending has increased by nearly 25 percent since 2008, a proposed spending freeze at the 2010 level, which was included in the President’s budget, would merely lock in current levels of unsustainable borrowing, spending, and taxing.  The fact is that a spending freeze even at 2006 or 2008 levels would still increase the overall deficit in coming years. 

“For that reason, we must immediately reduce the size and scope of the federal government, starting with pragmatic and meaningful cuts to discretionary spending to fill the projected $1.6 trillion spending gap for FY2011 alone and then go a step farther by instituting mechanisms such as a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to force the government to do what its citizens already do – live within its means.  As a veteran of repeated balanced budget amendment debates over the years, I find it unconscionable that Americans have seen their government balance the budget only five times in a half of a century. 

“As I have long said, we must evaluate the merits of all federal fiscal and policy decisions through an economic prism and determine their implications for the ability of families and businesses to grow and prosper.  Unfortunately, the President’s FY2012 budget proposal ignored this imperative and exemplifies this administration’s continued misalignment of our nation’s financial and economic priorities.”