40 Md. Legislators Ask Congress to Move Money from Pentagon to Communities
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 4, 2011
Fund Our Communities: Bring the War Dollars Home
WHEN: Monday, March 7, 4:30 p.m.
WHERE: House Ways and Means Committee Conference Room, # 131 House Office Building, Annapolis
WHO: Forty state senators and delegates; leaders of supporting Md. justice and peace organizations
WHAT: Press conference to publicly release their letter to the 10 members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation asking them to cut the military budget and use the savings to fund local and state needs.
“The economic downturn has drained our state and local treasuries to dangerously low levels and is inflicting immense suffering on our people,” reads the letter. “In the context of this crisis, the current unprecedented level of military spending constitutes a shocking misallocation of national resources. We ask you as our colleagues and our leaders in Washington to press for a dramatic shift in federal budget priorities.”
The letter goes on to say, “The people of Maryland will pay (or go further into debt) for more than $14.3 billion in 2011 as our contribution to the military budget, an amount matching our entire annual State budget for everything, including K-12 education, higher education, health care, public safety and environmental protection. . . we ask you to introduce legislation in Congress making major reductions in the Pentagon budget, amounting to at least 25% over the next five years . . . Savings can be invested in the crying social needs of the nation.”
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Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate Sheila Hixson co-wrote the letter and urged their colleagues to sign it. “Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower warned us of a military-industrial complex that would continue to grow of its own accord apart from real national security needs,” said Senator Raskin. “Today American communities are paying the price for this bloated military-industrial complex. As even Tea Party Republicans are pointing out today, we can dramatically reduce the military budget without cutting any funds for our troops abroad or undermining national security.”
The legislators’ letter comes following the recent formation of a Maryland coalition, “Fund Our Communities, Bring the War Dollars Home,” composed of 40 organizations, including veterans’ groups, labor unions, religious congregations, and advocacy, political and service organizations.
Members include the NAACP/MD, CASA de Maryland, Progressive Maryland, UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Healthcare-Now of Maryland, the Network of Spiritual Progressives/MD, and many others. A current list of member organizations can be viewed here: http://ourfunds.peacepress.info/about/ 
Like the Maryland legislators, the coalition is demanding a re-prioritization of the Federal budget, with money moved from military expenditures to the creation of jobs that will fix our failing infrastructure and convert the U.S. to a green economy; fund education and health care needs; and fully fund veterans’ services.
“The latest federal budget proposal decimates programs and services for our citizens, cuts block grants to state and local governments, and will result in lay-offs of thousands of workers,” said Rion Dennis, Executive Director of Progressive Maryland. “For example, it will cut low income home energy assistance to poor people in Maryland by 63%. At the same time it increases the Pentagon’s ‘base budget’, already higher than any time since World War II. This extraordinary level of military spending does not make us safer. And we desperately need that money in our communities.”
“The vast majority of the people of the U.S. are struggling to make ends meet during the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. Money spent on wars, unnecessary weapons systems, and foreign military bases should instead be invested in our communities,” said Bob Cooke of Pax Christi.
The Maryland coalition is one of numerous new coalitions recently formed around the nation through the New Priorities Network, which was founded in October 2010: www.NewPrioritiesNetwork.org .