Cicilline Outlines Spending Priorities for Fiscal Year 2015 Budget

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) today urged the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee to include targeted, job-creating investments in transportation infrastructure upgrades, advanced manufacturing, and education and workforce training in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget to boost employment.  Cicilline, a former member of the House Budget Committee, also highlighted the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage and protecting our social safety net - including nutrition programs, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Cicilline’s remarks, which were submitted to the House Budget Committee, follow:

Thank you Chairman Ryan, Ranking Member Van Hollen, and members of the Budget Committee.

As a proud former Member of this Committee, I want to thank you for your diligence and your willingness to accept testimony from a wide range of Members as you work on a long-term budget framework. As all of you know, the federal budget is not just a series of estimates, revenues, and expenditures. The budget is a powerful indication of our priorities as a nation.

Our primary focus as we work to craft a budget should remain boosting employment and creating jobs. As of this February, the unemployment rate in Rhode Island stood at an unacceptably high 9 percent. Across the country, slow job growth remains an urgent priority for the thousands of families still looking for work in a difficult economy. The right path is clear – Congress should work to invest now in priorities that can create jobs in the short-term. This will lead to more sustained economic growth and smaller deficits in the long-term.

Today, I want to talk about three important priorities related to job creation that I believe warrant serious consideration in Fiscal Year 2015.

First, we should work to craft a budget that will help rebuild our transportation infrastructure, which accomplishes two important goals. These investments help create jobs in a construction sector that remains stalled. And second, it helps set the platform for us to compete in a 21st century economy.

In recent weeks, I’ve met with local Rhode Island transportation officials, and I’ve heard frequently about existing plans to improve our State’s bridges, roads and transit systems that are delayed in going out to bid because of uncertainty related to federal funding. These are the kinds of projects that are absolutely critical for companies to move goods and services. I hope this Committee will strongly consider two initiatives proposed in the President’s budget. Both parties agree that we should accelerate efforts to modernize the federal permitting process for major projects. And second, Members of both parties have advocated for using revenue from reforming our corporate tax code to invest in our transportation infrastructure. Let’s get both of these things done.

Second, our nation’s economic recovery depends on the vitality and innovative spirit of our small businesses and manufacturers. The global market for manufacturing, including China’s weakening influence in this sector, has shifted the game in important ways in the last few years. In Rhode Island, for the first time in more than a decade, the State gained manufacturing jobs last year, a total of 1,045 between December 2012 and December 2013. Many analysts agree that American companies are well-positioned to capitalize if we harness this opportunity and focus on supporting innovative firms and helping American companies adopt advanced practices.

The President’s budget contains modest investments to build this capacity. It provides funding for five additional hubs for high-tech manufacturing and supports the creation of a national network of 45 manufacturing institutes in the next decade to support this work. Let’s make sure American companies drive the next wave of high-tech, 21st century manufacturing jobs and invest in these critical priorities. 

Finally, we need to improve our education systems and workforce training programs. Support for education is our best investment in the future and represents perhaps the single most powerful tool in alleviating poverty and equipping Americans with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy.

One report from Georgetown University indicated, of the nearly 47 million job openings estimated between 2008 and 2018, more than 29 million will require at least some postsecondary education. Far too often when I visit companies like Innovex in Lincoln, Rhode Island, I hear employers telling me they have jobs to fill, and plans to expand, but they face difficulties finding people with the right skill set.

The President’s budget invests in a Community College Job-Driven Training Fund, to encourage partnerships between community colleges, employers and others in launching new apprenticeship and training programs that are flexible enough to account for shifting markets. The budget also works to make college more affordable by better determining which colleges and universities truly provide the best value to their students. Finally, we should also extend emergency unemployment insurance and link these vital benefits with programs specifically targeted at providing the long-term unemployed with the necessary skills to get a job.  

I’ve focused most of my testimony on efforts to boost our economy. But it’s also critical that this Committee remember that real, sustained economic growth involves more than just boosting employment. America is better off when every worker earns a fair wage, every family has a shot at the middle class, and every child or senior can lead a healthy life. Our budget can and should maintain the social safety net, including nutrition programs and Medicaid, so that every child has an opportunity in this country to be healthy and succeed. And it is vital that we provide our seniors the health benefits and retirement security they have earned over a lifetime of hard work.

Previously, members of this Committee have proposed ending the Medicare guarantee as we know it and forcing some seniors to purchase insurance on the private market. Time and again, these efforts have failed to win the approval of the Senate and the President. This year, let’s not rehash old, partisan fights.

Instead we should focus together on real priorities like creating jobs and investing in a fair economy that’s built to last.

Thank you again for your time today and I look forward to working together on a budget that best serves all of our constituents.

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