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by Mike Hall, Aug 4, 2010

The Senate today voted 61-38, to end a Republican filibuster of aid to state and local governments that would save or create nearly a million jobs for teachers, public employees, police officers, firefighters and others.

The bill provides $16 billion for a Medicaid funding assistance program known as FMAP and $10 billion for teachers’ jobs. Without such funding, the states facing huge budget shortfalls will be forced to begin massive layoffs that could cost nearly a million workers their jobs. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) put it this way:

We can’t afford to kick [states] while they are down by denying them the FMAP and teacher funding. The bill directly injects money into our economy, and the best part about it is it saves jobs without adding a dime to the deficit.

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee said the action is a “bold step forward in the effort to protect jobs and bolster America’s economic recovery.”

By breaking the Republican filibuster on emergency aid for the states, the Senate has thrown a lifeline to millions of Americans who are being hit hard by the worst economy since the Great Depression.

After the vote, AFT President Randi Weingarten said  “We can’t ‘race to the top’ if the bottom is falling out for school districts across the country.”

Make no mistake about it—for every layoff, every day that’s cut from a school week, every course or program that’s dropped, children are hurt. That is why we are so grateful that the Senate demonstrated its support for kids and their education.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that while Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine voted for the bill

the vast majority of Senate Republicans showed decisively that cheap political points trump good jobs and working people.  Republicans who fought hard for tax cuts for the wealthy today did everything in their power to defeat funding for teachers and firefighters, adding to the laundry list of anti-jobs votes they’ve taken.  They voted ‘no’ even though the Congressional Budget Office estimated this measure will reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion.

A recent study by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) shows that at least 25 states assumed an extension of the enhanced FMAP funding for their 2011 budgets. Without it, according to the report, budget gaps could grow by more than $12 billion in the current fiscal year and as much as $72 billion next fiscal year, forcing cuts in vital services and jobs to make up for the shortfalls.

A final Senate vote on the legislation, which will need just a simple majority to pass, will be later this week.  House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this afternoon  that she she will call the House back into session early next week to vote on the bill.

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