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Senate leader Mitchell will address Congressional City Conference.

Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-me.) last week accepted a joint invitation from NLC President Glenda Hood and Maine Municipal Association President Jill Goldthwait to serve as the keynote speaker at NLC's Congressional City Conference.

The invitation came after a meeting of NLC first Vice President Don Fraser, NLC Past President Cathy Reynolds, and Goldthwait with Mitchell last November to urge Mitchell's leadership in the Senate on a legislative initiative to shift federal spending priorities from defense to economic security and reinvestment in American priorities.

Changing the budget agreement to convert military spending to long term reinvestment in America's fiscal, human, and physical deficits is NLC's highest federal priority in 1992.

The week before last Mitchell outlined a leadership proposal calling for more than $100 billion in defense cuts and outlining an economic conversion plan to invest in the nation's domestic needs to lay out his agenda for the second session of the 102nd Congress.

Mitchell also said he plans to seek changes in the 1990 budget agreement to eliminate the firewalls that prevent defense cuts from being used for domestic discretionary investment--the highest priority for the 102nd Congress adopted by NLC delegates at the Congress of Cities last month.

Mitchell is expected to address NLC's leaders about his agenda for the remainder of the 102nd Congress as well as what steps community leaders can take to ensure changed federal priorities.

Under his plan, Mitchell proposed to use some of the defense savings for immediate, but one-time only aid to state and local governments. Mitchell would use the bulk of the savings to pay for middle income tax cuts:

"The first step is to change the 1990 budget agreement. The Cold War is over. It's time to take down the artificial budget walls which prevent us from shifting our priorities from abroad to here at home."

The Senate Majority Leader indicated that converting from national to economic security through military economic conversion would be one of his highest priorities:

"We must invest in our future to reenergize the economy: investment in goods, products, technology; but most important, in people. It is human will, human intelligence, human courage and human action. The most significant element of national wealth is a nation's people. America is blessed in its people. It's time we turned our attention to them."

Stating that the desperate struggle for military security that consumed the last half century was over, Mitchell said he would push his colleagues in the Senate to redefine American security by economic rather than military terms--and that he would measure it by the safety of families from fear, racism, poverty, ignorance, and lack of access to affordable health care.

He said he would seek a course to reverse the steady erosion of the economy due to the failure to invest in the future, as seen by high infant mortality rates in communities, crumbling bridges, poorly educated students, crim plagued neighborhoods, cities without jobs, and people without hope:

"We need an economic program that addresses the root causes of the problems--a program to bring us out of recession and to carry the country into the next century."

To turn the economy around, Mitchell said would require two steps. First he proposed an immediate response to the recession; second the proposed investment for long term growth.

To stimulate the economy, his plan includes an immediate infusion of aid to state and local governments to counter the cuts in services and state and local tax increases. That part of the plan would also include middle income tax cuts, and business and homebuyer tax incentives.

The longer term investment plan Mitchell proposed would include reduction in the record federal deficit, investment in rebuilding public infrastructure, and investment in education and training.

To counteract spending cuts and tax hikes by cities and towns, Mitchell proposed a "single, one-time-only grant to state and local governments" of an unspecified amount. The grant would be limited for education, public safety, health care, infrastructure, and meeting federal mandates.

For the longer term, Mitchell said he would seek full funding for Head Start, and increased funding for job training and traditional as well as modern (telecommunications) infrastructure. And he said the long term plan would have to provide for comprehensive health care reform.

Mitchell, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, also said he would push for a permanent extension of municipal authority to issue tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds and low income housing tax credits. Both programs are scheduled to expire on June 30, 1992 under current law.

Finally Mitchell announced he would seek to convert military infrastructure--the facilities and human resources of the defense industry - to civilian use. Nearly one in every eleven jobs in the cities and towns of Maine is directly or indirectly impacted by defense spending:

"I propose a comprehensive program of conversion to civilian production. We need to turn our high tech capabilities to the civilian challenges of tomorrowwin areas such as communications, transportation and health technology."
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Title Annotation:Senator George J. Mitchell
Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 27, 1992
Previous Article:$43 billion economic 'jump-start' outlined in House.
Next Article:National League of Cities: meeting of urban group is chance to learn.

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