Speaking Out! Budget update, and a big public health win in Portland
House passes stop-gap measure to fund government
Congress acted last week to keep the lights on and the government running, passing a six-month spending bill by a bipartisan vote of 329 to 91. How well this measure protected important programs for families is a matter of your perspective.
The spending bill, called a continuing resolution, will maintain government spending levels at $1.047 trillion established in last year’s Budget Control Act (the measure that provided for a debt ceiling increase). The frozen funding levels for most programs means no additional aid to children and their families, despite new Census data that shows child poverty remains high. Yet it also avoids further cuts. Some in the House had been considering further cuts to federal spending, and most “no” votes to this continuing resolution actually came from members looking to constrain spending even more. The Senate is expected to take up the bill this week.
The continuing resolution does little to address the “fiscal cliff” that policymakers warn will hit next year. The fiscal cliff is a dilemma Congress faces as the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire, the payroll tax cut expires, and sequestration enforces strict cuts on many kinds of spending. The tax increases and dramatic contraction of government spending could harm the economy, and program cuts from the sequestration will hurt families that are still struggling from the wake of the recession.
Huge public health win through fluoridation in Portland, Ore.
Portland, Ore., made a giant stride in public health last week by approving a water fluoridation program for the first time. Decades of research have shown that small amounts of fluoride in drinking water can prevent tooth decay, meaning fluoridation can protect oral health for the whole community.
Portland had been the largest U.S. city not to fluoride its water. It showed, too: Portland reportedly also has some of the worst tooth-decay problems in the nation. “When someone moves to Portland from another state — and that’s most people you meet in this city of transplants — their new dentist takes one look at their excellent teeth and concludes they must have been raised elsewhere, a place that puts fluoride in its drinking water,” wrote the Seattle Times last week. Portland’s new fluoridation program, at $5 million, will be very inexpensive for all the dental problems fluoridation can help prevent.
Voices has joined with the Pew Center on the States and the American Academy of Pediatrics to help promote community water fluoridation. Check out I Like My Teeth, our oral health site, for more about fluoridation and other ways to help protect smiles for kids!