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The Eagle: Rep. Bill Flores weighs in on Trump budget plan

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COLLEGE STATION, May 27, 2017 | comments
By Kelan Lyons

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores said there were aspects of the president's budget released this past week that "we want to put our Congressional fingerprints on," but he was "glad to see" that the Trump administration is trying to balance the budget in 10 years.

Trump's budget is merely a suggestive blueprint -- Congress, not the president, makes the budget -- and is unlikely to pass in its current form, but presidential budgets do represent the symbolic direction a president wants to take the country over the course of their terms. Trump's plan projects a balanced budget in 10 years, relying on an optimistic projection of 3 percent of economic growth, a significant increase given the 2-percent average in the post-recession years.

Flores said Thursday he had "trust" in the 3 percent figure "because we've had substantial regulatory reform that has greatly lowered the uncertainty in the business environment." Flores said he thought the growth could be even higher than 3 percent, in the 3.5-percent range, because of tax and regulatory reforms still to be determined by Congress and the White House.


Regarding the "congressional fingerprints," Flores said that many House members want more than the $639 million in defense spending outlined in the president's budget, and that the proposed cuts to research funding "have gone too far" because such funding is paramount for future economic growth. The congressman said he'd like to see more funding go to the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Flores said he'd also like to see reform of Medicare and Social Security, since leaving them as they are would make the programs experience deep cuts within the next decade. Changes, the congressman said, would "ensure fiscal sustainability."

Flores rejected the idea that Trump's budget -- which features $1.7 trillion in cuts to anti-poverty programs such as Medicaid, SNAP benefits, health insurance for children and Social Security disability payments -- represented a "reverse Robin Hood" scheme, where money is taken from the poor and given to the rich, insisting that such comparisons go "beyond the pale."

"Middle-income Americans have been hammered," Flores said, and the tax cuts for "all Americans," not just the upper class, would make middle-income families "the greatest beneficiaries of economic growth."

"The left is trying to parse this thing apart and say you're giving tax breaks to higher-income Americans... we're proposing tax breaks for all Americans," said Flores. "We don't make America healthy economically by giving them a welfare benefit. We make them healthy... by giving them opportunities for great paychecks."

Shifting from the federal government's budget to healthcare and the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Flores said the Congressional Budget Office's assessment released this week "proves what we thought [the American Health Care Act] would do: It lowers premiums and reduces the deficit."

The CBO report predicts that the deficit would be reduced by $119 billion over the next decade, but that 23 million fewer Americans would have health insurance over the same time frame. The report also predicted that premiums would rise by about 20 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019; beginning in 2020, the CBO projects, premiums would, on average, decline, but that would depend on a number of factors, including the age of policyholders, whether those policyholders have pre-existing conditions and if the states in which those policyholders reside would opt for a waiver, among other variables.


The report also says that, over time -- despite a five-year $8 billion pledge to help sick residents who live in states that seek waivers to opt out of crucial ACA provisions that protect those policyholders -- "less healthy individuals ([including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions] would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all."

Flores said the CBO doesn't "have the world's best track record in predicting human behavior," considering that it hadn't accurately estimated the number of Americans who enrolled in Obamacare health insurance plans through the state-run exchanges. Currently, an estimated 12 million are enrolled in plans provided by the Affordable Care Act,

"To predict there's 100 percent of the people who have coverage are going to drop their coverage, I don't know how they get there," said Flores.

Flores referenced a study released this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that found average individual market premiums have more than doubled since 2013, and that all 39 states participating in experienced hikes in individual market premiums over the four-year period.

The congressman defended the AHCA, which he voted for.

"Nobody loses their coverage," said Flores. "We're giving families their freedom back to make their own healthcare choices."

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