Last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget released President Obama’s final budget to fund the government through fiscal year 2017. Funding the federal government is ultimately Congress’ obligation, but the President’s budget serves as an indication of his priorities, what direction he feels the country ought to take.
President Obama’s last budget is structured around perhaps the best idea of his presidency: America’s economic growth through smart investments in our future with financial commitments to scientific research, clean energy, infrastructure improvements, and education. It’s a blueprint to a better future that addresses our most important problems while seeking to maintain American economic and military leadership in the 21st century.
Specifically, President Obama’s budget invests in:
• Fighting Climate Change: funding for research to develop new, clean energy sources, funding to accelerate adoption of clean energy sources, and aid to developing and emerging economies to invest in development that reduces carbon pollution.
• Education: strengthening Pell grants, reforming student loans, funding expanded job training, working towards universal pre-K, and providing two years of community college tuition to all responsible students.
• Health and Scientific Research: the President’s “moonshot” initiative to cure cancer, a new program to fight the prescription drug and opioid overdose epidemic, large increases in funding for scientific and biomedical research at the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and new funding initiatives to help improve mental health.
• Infrastructure: funds to repair railways, roads, and bridges, initiatives to protect water supplies, new funds to strengthen federal cybersecurity, increasing dependence on smart-grid infrastructure to increase energy efficiency, funding to spur the development of clean energy infrastructure and construction of renewable energy sources.
• Economic Opportunity For All: tax cuts to help cover childcare costs for working families, strengthening and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, funds to encourage states to establish paid leave programs, modernizing unemployment insurance, increasing access to and portability of retirement programs, directing funding to finally end homelessness by 2020.
The President’s vision would accomplish all of this, fund the Overseas Contingency Fund to a level necessary to support a comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS, and even achieve $2.9 trillion in debt reduction over already-agreed-to spending cuts by making the wealthiest among us shoulder their fair share of the tax burden. I believe that this plan represents both a smart way to grow our economy and the right thing to do to promote fairness, equality, and opportunity for all Americans.
Unfortunately House and Senate leadership broke with a decades-long tradition, rejecting the opportunity to hear from Office of Management and Budget Direct Shaun Donovan on President Obama’s budget. All of us have differences of opinion when it comes to solving the problems that face us, but the American people expect Congress to work together to provide solutions. We cannot bridge these divisions when we refuse the opportunity for open debate.
Rep. Beyer can be reached through his website at www.beyer.house.gov, on Twitter @RepDonBeyer or his office at (202) 225-4376.