Congresswoman Kuster Calls For Increased Infrastructure Funding

Annie Kuster Highway

Congresswoman Annie Kuster Tours I-93 Construction Project and Calls for Increased Federal Funding for Infrastructure Projects

Annie Kuster Highway

Kuster recently called on House Leadership to provide additional funding for the Highway Trust Fund in order to ensure projects like I-93 expansion can continue

NASHUA, N.H. – During a tour of the I-93 expansion project in New Hampshire’s southern tier, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) called for increased federal investment in our roads and bridges. New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement and New Hampshire State Senate and House Transportation Committee Chairs State Senator Jim Rausch and State Representative Candace Bouchard, among others, led the Congresswoman on the tour and stressed the importance of continued funding for infrastructure projects like this one.

Last month, Congresswoman Kuster wrote a letter to House Leadership urging that funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which funds projects like the I-93 expansion, not be allowed to run out. As it stands today, the Highway Trust Fund is scheduled to drop below a critical funding threshold by June of this year, which could delay payments to states for vital infrastructure repair projects.

“We must make repairing our roads and bridges a top priority,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Projects like the I-93 expansion not only help protect the safety of Granite State residents, they also provide better transportation options for our state’s workers, spur the economy, and create jobs. I call on House Leadership to work to quickly find a solution to fund the Highway Trust fund, which is so critical to projects like the one I toured today.”

Kuster went on to call on her colleagues in Congress to support general infrastructure investment in order to protect public safety and promote economic development in the Granite State and across the country.

The widening of a 20-mile segment of I-93 is one of the largest infrastructure improvement projects in New Hampshire history. Not only will the expansion project make the corridor safer for New Hampshire drivers, it is also creating many needed construction jobs for Granite State workers. Congresswoman Kuster believes that a robust, safe, and efficient transportation network is critical to protecting public safety, growing our economy, and creating jobs in New Hampshire, and she has been a staunch supporter of this project.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Expand STEM Education

First Robotics Competition  2010 (Image Wiki Commons)

Legislation could benefit NH’s FIRST Robotics Competition

Supported by Rocket Scientist Rep. Rush Holt and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie

First Robotics Competition  2010 (Image Wiki Commons)

First Robotics Competition 2010 (Image Wiki Commons)

WASHINGTON, DC –With economic projections indicating that the U.S. will need 1 million more workers in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) within the next decade, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today introduced the STEM Mentoring and Inspiration Act, legislation that would expand the number of programs eligible to compete for federal STEM funding.

Currently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) offers grants to help schools improve STEM education. Shea-Porter’s STEM Mentoring and Inspiration Act expands grant eligibility to after-school programs that incorporate self-directed student learning, inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning in small groups, collaboration with mentors, and participation in STEM competitions. This bill does not cost anything; it simply makes additional programs eligible for already-existing NSF funding.

“STEM education is vital to building a high-tech workforce and preparing students for jobs in the global economy,” Shea-Porter said. “Today, some of the most promising STEM programs incorporate mentoring and self-directed learning to inspire and engage students. Those programs should be on an equal playing field when it comes to accessing federal grant funding.”

Original cosponsors of the legislation include (Rocket Scientist) Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12); Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky who holds an engineering degree from MIT along with 24 patents; and Rep. Annie Kuster, from New Hampshire, a member of the STEM Education Caucus.

Shea-Porter is a member of the STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics) Caucus. In March, she spoke at the opening ceremonies of the FIRST Robotics competition at UNH. Earlier in the year, she wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor expressing her support for Manchester School District’s STEAM Ahead initiative.

Expanded Gambling Is About Creating Jobs (Testimony by NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie)

NH AFL-CIO Logo

NH AFL-CIO LogoAs president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state, I speak to workers and community leaders every day about the difficulties facing our state’s working families as we continue to struggle in the aftermath of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Now is the time for our elected leaders to step up to the plate and take real, immediate and concrete steps to create good new jobs for thousands of workers in our state.

This Committee and the entire New Hampshire House now have the opportunity to do just that. In fact, legislators have been presented with a bill, SB 366, that will guarantee the creation of a half-billion-dollar construction project, every penny of which would come from private investment.

SB 366 would create more than 2,000 jobs for New Hampshire construction workers and more than 1,000 good, permanent jobs. Furthermore, this bill will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax revenue for the state and our municipalities, allowing us to keep critical programs like education, public safety and infrastructure off the budgetary chopping block. Plus, polls show that a big majority – nearly 60 percent – of Granite Staters favor the approach SB 366 takes.

SB 366 would bring expanded casino gaming to New Hampshire. Now, I know some members of this committee personally don’t approve of gambling, and that’s certainly your prerogative. But we must come to terms with the fact that we are stuck in a situation where job growth continues to be sluggish and the state budget continually presents our elected officials with extremely difficult choices between cutting programs and finding needed revenue.

The fact is, New Hampshire will be experiencing the downside of casino gaming whether or not we build a new casino within our borders. Our state already has a $75 million-per-year casino industry under the guise of “charitable gaming,” and there will soon be several casinos just over the border in Massachusetts. Without SB 366, we’ll leave thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

SB 366 was amended in the Senate to include provisions drafted by the bipartisan, multi-agency Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority as part of last year’s state budget process. In consultation with independent experts, the authority reviewed best practices in the gaming industry across the country to develop a true New Hampshire solution for expanded gaming.

This bill was crafted specifically to address concerns lawmakers had with previous gaming proposals, concerns we shared in many cases. We believe that SB 366 includes a comprehensive regulatory structure and robust provisions to ensure that the jobs will go to New Hampshire workers.

Although we have always supported creating good jobs for Granite State workers, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has never officially endorsed a casino proposal before. Our executive committee recently voted unanimously to fully endorse gaming legislation this year because we are convinced the current proposal represents what’s best for New Hampshire’s working families and for our state

Creating jobs shouldn’t just be a talking point or a political slogan. Growing our economy and putting people to work should be real, tangible goals for our elected leaders. SB 366 is legislation that would accomplish these goals, and I urge the committee to support it. Together we can help rebuild New Hampshire’s middle class by focusing on creating good jobs for workers in our state. Passing this bill will contribute to that cause.

Thank you for your consideration.

Mark MacKenzie
President of the NH AFL-CIO

Shaheen Presses Top Air Force Officials On Development Of KC-46 Tanker For Pease AFB (VIDEO)

Shaheen Video Image

Tanker Could Bring 100 New Jobs,
Millions in Economic Investments to New Hampshire

(Washington, DC) – This morning U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called on top U.S. Air Force officials to produce an updated projected timeline on the development of the next-generation KC-46A tanker to be based at Pease Air National Guard Base, an Air Force project that is estimated to create 100 jobs and invest millions in New Hampshire’s economy. Shaheen, who worked closely with the entire New Hampshire delegation to promote the selection of Pease to house the KC-46A tanker, sought an update on the KC-46A development process from Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh III.

“The importance of having a base with Pease’s capabilities to support the U.S. Air Force and its work around the world cannot be overstated,” Shaheen said. “The Air Force’s commitment to continued and timely development of the KC-46 project at Pease is critical to our national security and I’ll continue working with federal officials on the timely completion of this project.”

At the hearing, Shaheen raised the Air Force’s budget with Secretary James and the Air Force’s ability to mitigate the risk future cuts could pose to the KC-46 contract at Pease, specifically citing the impact of continued sequestration as a concern. Secretary James is scheduled to visit Pease in early May.

As a member of both the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, Shaheen worked to include funding for a number of New Hampshire defense priorities in the 2014 Defense Appropriations bill and the bipartisan omnibus bill, including the KC-46A aerial refueling tanker and Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines, as well as programs that provide care and support to service members and their families. Last year, the Air Force announced that Pease was one of five Air National Guard finalists to receive the KC-46A, which will replace the Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers.

Shaheen Celebrates Grand Opening Of Safran Aerospace Composite In Rochester

Shaheen-021109-18432- 0009

Company hopes to employ more than 400 people at new facility

(Rochester, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today joined Safran Aerospace Composite officials to celebrate the grand opening of Safran’s new Rochester manufacturing facility which will create jobs and boost the local economy. Safran, the world’s oldest aircraft engineer manufacturer, builds aircraft propulsion systems, rocket engines, and other aircraft equipment; the new plant currently employs 130 people and expects to grow to between 400 and 500 employees by 2020.

“The high-tech jobs being created here in Rochester show how innovative companies like Safran can help drive economic growth and job creation,” Shaheen said. “Advanced manufacturing firms are creating high-paying jobs and helping us maintain our technological edge, but their success also depends on a highly skilled workforce. That’s why I’ve worked to promote investments in our education system so that more companies have access to a high skilled workforce right here in New Hampshire and can follow in Safran’s footsteps.”

Shaheen helped secure $20 million for the Community College System of New Hampshire through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act Community College and Career Training Program. The grant funded the creation of the statewide advanced manufacturing job training program that gives workers the skills to get jobs at high-tech companies and was critical in bringing Safran to New Hampshire.

Continuing her efforts to promote on-the-job training programs and New Hampshire’s Community Colleges, Shaheen, a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, has supported efforts to amend the Workforce Investment Act in order to establish a grant program that would help create partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges to help with job training efforts.  The bill would also authorize funds for state or local governments to train workers for companies or industries that are considering relocating their operations overseas to train workers to enable them to keep their operations local.

Senator Shaheen Says ‘Manufacturing Is Critical To New Hampshire Economy, and Jobs

Senator Shaheen At Globe Manufacturing
Senator Shaheen At Globe Manufacturing

Senator Shaheen At Globe Manufacturing

At Globe Manufacturing Shaheen discusses New Hampshire’s manufacturing sector

(Pittsfield, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) visited Globe Manufacturing this morning to tour its Pittsfield facility and discuss the importance of manufacturing to New Hampshire’s economy. Globe Manufacturing has been producing equipment for firefighters since 1901 and employs 300 people in New Hampshire.

“It’s great to visit Globe Manufacturing and see the state-of-the-art equipment they produce to keep our first responders and firefighters safe on the job,” Shaheen said. “New Hampshire’s manufacturing sector employs more than 10 percent of our workforce and keeping our manufacturing sector strong is so important for the economy and jobs here and around the country. Companies like Globe Manufacturing create and sustain good-paying jobs that drive economic growth and I will continue my work to promote the nation’s manufacturing industry so we can continue to create jobs here at home.”

Shaheen has been vocal about the need to encourage growth in manufacturing throughout the country. Last year, she joined a campaign to refocus Washington on job creation and economic growth with a focus on manufacturing. Shaheen has introduced several bipartisan pieces of legislation including the On-the-Job Training Act and Small Business Export Growth Act, which would help create jobs and grow the economy. Shaheen was also a leader in the creation of the new Manchester Job Corps, which will train young people in New Hampshire for careers in the advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, homeland security, hospitality and information technology industries.

Rebuilding Our Economy By Reducing Our Trade Deficit And Opposing The TPP

Image from CC WikiCommons
Image from CC WikiCommons

Image from CC WikiCommons

Jobs, jobs, jobs! That is what every member of Congress said they were going to create if we elected them.  President Obama said he would create one million new manufacturing jobs.  The President has not met his goal yet, but there are a few things we can do to reduce unemployment, create new good manufacturing jobs, and reduce our trade deficit all at the same time.

Many people say that the problem with the American economy is that ‘America doesn’t make anything anymore.’  Millions of good, mostly union, manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas.  This has created many problems within our economy.  First, it raised the unemployment rate as workers saw their factories up and disappear.  Second, it created a trade deficit with other countries as we are importing more goods than we are exporting.

The trade deficit is key to rebuilding our economy and getting millions of Americans back to work.  The trade deficit is a little confusing but let me try to explain it in a non-econ major’s interpretation.

Every year the United States exports $212 Billion dollars worth of machinery. This would be cars, trucks, engines, etc.  At the same time the United States imports $314 billion dollars in machinery from other countries.  For the purpose of this example let’s say that all of this trade is with China.  This would create a $102 billion dollar ‘trade deficit’ with China.

The US currently has a $540 Billion dollar annual trade deficit. This means that U.S. exports of $2.194 trillion were less than its imports of $2.73 trillion in goods and services.”  Other countries like Germany are exactly the opposite, they export more than they import. In fact Germany had a 1.5 EUR billion in trade surplus.  This is one of the reasons Germany has one of the strongest economies in the world.

The first step in getting Americans back to work is to balance our trade with other countries. Dean Baker from the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) told me in a phone interview that eliminating the trade deficit would lead to “4 million new jobs directly, and over 6 million new jobs indirectly.”  Not only would we be creating new jobs, many of the new jobs would be good, Middle Class union jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Baker also talked about how by adding these new jobs, the United States would come closed to “full employment”.  Baker stated, “As we climb closer to full employment wages will rise.”  As the unemployment rate drops, employers will have to raise their wages to keep employees or encourage new applicants.

Clyde Prestowitz, President of the Economic Strategy Institute, echoed Baker’s statement by say that “lowering the trade deficit would create 5-6 million new jobs.”

Both Baker and Prestowitz cited ‘currency manipulation’ as a key influencer in our trade deficit.  Again, for those (like me) who are not economic majors, currency manipulation is very complex theory where one country buys another country’s debt to cause changes in the currency rate of exchange.

Robert E. Scott Economic Policy Institute explained currency manipulation the best in his blog:

Currency manipulation lowers the value of foreign currencies, relative to the U.S. dollar, which acts like a subsidy to their exports, and a tax on U.S. exports to China and every other country where the U.S. competes with the exports of currency manipulators.

Matthew McMullan from the Alliance for American Manufacturing explained currency manipulation to me in an email:

“China holds massive amounts of American currency in reserve. They go right to the U.S. Treasury and buy treasury notes. By gobbling up dollars and sitting on them, they make them more scarce. It makes the dollar stronger (or more expensive) and makes its own currency, the yuan, weaker (or cheaper) by comparison. That makes stuff that America exports more expensive, and stuff that China exports cheaper. China effectively subsidizes its exports by putting a tax on America’s.”

Doug Hall also from the EPI breaks it down to its most basic form: currency manipulation “raises the cost of U.S. exports, and lowers the cost of U.S. imports.”

The Economic Policy Institute recently published Robert E. Scott’s massive report on currency manipulation, which spells out exactly how ending currency manipulation will create new jobs and boost America’s exports.

After the report was released AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “U.S. workers can compete with anyone in the world, but they cannot compete successfully on a lopsided playing field.  Currency manipulation allows countries like China to devalue their currency, which artificially makes Chinese goods less expensive and American products more expensive. This is a major contributing factor in our lopsided trade relationship with China. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing companies and workers bear the brunt of these unfair policies.”

How do we compete in the global marketplace when countries are gaming the system through currency manipulation?

Robert E. Scott (EPI) recommends several ways of combatting currency manipulation.

First, Congress should pass pending legislation that would allow the Commerce Department to treat currency manipulation as a subsidy in countervailing duty trade cases. Second, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement should include “strong, enforceable currency manipulation provisions,” as a majority of the House has insisted. Third, the administration should implement strategies to offset purchases of foreign assets by currency manipulating governments, which would make efforts to manipulate the dollar and other currencies costly and/or ineffective.

Both Dean Baker and Clyde Prestowitz also said they were “not fans” of the TPP, and the TPP is not addressing the currency manipulation issue.

Prestowitz went on to say that the TPP will “result in higher unemployment and lower wages for US workers.” He continued by saying that the “there is no such thing as ‘Free-Trade’; the TPP is about regulating trade.”

There is another issue that the TPP is not currently addressing, and that is incentives to move manufacturing plants overseas.  This is similar to states offering huge tax breaks for corporations who choose to move their manufacturing plants into their state.  This is what drew Boeing to South Carolina; and the same thing lures US manufacturers into moving to China and Japan.

These multi-national corporations are reaping huge profits from these so-called ‘free trade agreements’ and benefiting from currency manipulation.  We need to end the currency manipulators and get our trade deficit down to help American workers.

Prestowitz posed this question; “What would our economy look like if China had purchased $1.5 Trillion dollars worth of American products?”

 

Senator Shaheen Introduce Bills To Create Jobs And Economic Opportunities For Veterans

Image by  DVIDSHUB 
CC Filickr
Image by  DVIDSHUB  CC Filickr

Image by DVIDSHUB
CC Filickr

 (Washington, DC)- U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced two pieces of legislation today to  bolster economic opportunities for our nation’s veterans and small businesses. The Veterans Hiring Act and the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act, will create simple, immediate tax incentives for businesses that hire veterans and lower costs for veterans looking to start or grow small businesses.

“Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed in the defense of the United States,” Shaheen said. “One of the best things we can do to honor that service is make sure they have good-paying, quality jobs when they come home. The skills developed through military training and service are the same qualities that make great employees and entrepreneurs. We can do more to help during the transition process, and these two pieces of legislation will go a long way toward helping veterans, small businesses, and our economy.”

“We also need to make it easier to access the programs we already have,” Shaheen added. “Despite making up fourteen percent of our military and owning thirty percent of our small businesses, only four percent of veteran-owned small business are run by women. We need to do better. This bill will make important progress in filling in some of the gaps in our current programs.”

The Veterans Hiring Act would cut payroll taxes for businesses that hire veterans, which would create immediate hiring incentives for employers. By lowering the cost of adding new employees, the bill will make it easier for small businesses to take advantage of veterans hiring incentives, expand their operations and help grow the economy.

The Veterans Entrepreneurship Act would lower the cost of Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs designed to assist veterans start their own small businesses. The bill would permanently eliminate fee waivers  for veterans applying for SBA Express loans and also improve current SBA programs designed to assist veterans by focusing on pre-deployment financial counseling and emergency assistance. The legislation also includes a provision requiring the Small Business Administration to identify ways to improve its outreach and services for female veterans, particularly through the SBA’s Women Business Centers and Veteran Business Outreach Centers.

The unemployment rate for U.S. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans stands at 9 percent, 2.3 percent higher than the national average. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen has made promoting veteran employment a top priority. Shaheen has also worked to promote veterans employment by visiting veteran-owned businesses and businesses that hire veterans throughout New Hampshire.

Pres. Obama’s Budget Puts Working Families And Education First

Image by Pete Souza White House Images

President Obama released his 2015 budget last week. He calls it “A Roadmap for Growth, Opportunity, and Fiscal Responsibility.”

Image by Pete Souza White House Images

Image by Pete Souza White House Images

The White House says that “the Budget adheres to the 2015 spending levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act and shows the choices the President would make at those levels.  But it also shows how to build on this progress to realize the nation’s full potential with a fully paid for $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, split evenly between defense and non-defense priorities.”

In this budget he outlines very clearly his priorities for investments in workforce development, education and training, early childhood and family support programs, youth programs, and employment generation.

From our friends at CLASP, here is a breakdown of some of the elements of the President’s budget that make up the components of an integrated, multi-faceted anti-poverty agenda:

Child Care and Early Education
The President reaffirmed his commitment to expanding high-quality early learning for all young children by proposing investments across birth to five programs in the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, including child care, home visiting, Head Start and Early Head Start, and pre-kindergarten.  The President called again for his Preschool for All plan proposed in last year’s budget. This includes preschool services for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds and an expansion of voluntary home visiting programs financed by an increase in the federal tobacco tax as well as other expansions divided between the base budget and the Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative.

Job Quality, Paid Family Leave, Working Conditions
President Obama’s budget proposal sends a strong endorsement of policies that support working families.  The budget reiterates the President’s support of legislation to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 as soon as possible. He recommends a total of $105 million to support a State Paid Leave Fund, with $100 million in the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative and $5 million in the base budget for the paid leave fund. The base budget also strengthens enforcement of existing laws, including the unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), minimum wage, and overtime laws, by calling for an increase of more than $41 million for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

Earned Income Tax Credit
The President proposes expanding and strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income childless workers, including non-custodial parents. His budget doubles the maximum credit for childless workers to about $1,000 and increases the income limit to qualify for the credit from less than $15,000 to $18,000. In addition, the President proposes to make the EITC available for young workers age 21 and over (currently it is only available to workers age 25-65) and older workers up to age 67, consistent with the rising Social Security full retirement age. The proposed changes would have a significant impact on low-income workers who do not currently have access to the EITC. The EITC expansion is recommended in the base budget; because it is a tax provision, it does not have to fit under the discretionary caps – but these changes would require the passage of legislation through Congress.

Workforce Training and Skill Development
The President’s budget also calls for new investments that prepare people for jobs in demand and put unemployed people back to work. His Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative includes $750 million to restore recent cuts to Workforce Investment Act formula grants to states, increase support for research and innovation, and make targeted investments in programs that serve individuals with barriers to employment. It also includes $1.5 billion for the first year of a four-year Community College Job-Driven Training Fund, which will provide competitive grants designed to increase the number of training programs and apprenticeships supported by employers and focused on jobs in demand. In addition, the proposal includes $125 million (in addition to $25 million in the base budget request) to expand the research-based Jobs Plus model, which connects public housing residents with jobs and training.  The proposal also envisions $20 million for Skills Challenge grants to support and implement bridge strategies and other models that integrate basic skills preparation with occupational skills training.

Higher Education
The budget reaffirms the President’s commitment to making college affordable and increasing the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential. It allows the maximum Pell Grant to increase to $5,830 for the 2015-2016 academic year and takes steps to shore up the program’s funding gap in future years. It restores federal student aid for students without a high school diploma in career pathway programs who are able to demonstrate their ability to benefit from postsecondary education. These career pathway programs, which include bridge programs and co-enrollment approaches, help low-income, low-skilled adults and out-of-school youth improve their basic skills while simultaneously working toward a postsecondary credential in a high-demand industry or sector. The budget also simplifies income-based repayment options to one single plan and extends it to all student borrowers. Two new programs included in the budget are the College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus, a mandatory funding proposal that would provide $7 billion to reward colleges that successfully enroll and graduate a significant number of low- and moderate-income students on time; and the State Higher Education Performance Fund, a $4 billion competitive grant program to encourage and support systemic efforts to improve college attainment and affordability, especially for low-income students. Finally, the budget requests a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and prevents the taxation of Pell Grants.

Job Creation
The budget includes several provisions to expand the availability of subsidized employment for unemployed and disadvantaged workers.  These include a proposed $2.5 billion in mandatory funding for Summer Jobs Plus, which will fund summer and year-round job opportunities for 600,000 youth as well as innovation grants aimed at improving skills and career options for disadvantaged youth, and a plan to shift $602 million from the TANF contingency fund to support state-subsidized employment programs for low-income individuals.  Subsidized employment was shown to be an effective and well-received strategy when funding was available under the TANF Emergency Fund. Because these proposals are in line items that are in the “mandatory” rather than “discretionary” category in the federal budget, they do not have to fit under the cap – but they would require additional legislation beyond the budget to be enacted.

Disadvantaged and Disconnected Youth
Of significant importance is the Administration’s continued focus on equity and opportunity for disconnected and disadvantaged youth and students of color – advancing positive outcomes for young people, elevating effective practice, as well as addressing the federal government’s role in improving its administration of the range of programs through which young people are served.  The budget includes a new $300 million Race to the Top Equity and Opportunity competition centered on increasing the academic performance of high-need students and closing the achievement gap. This competition is based on recommendations from the Equity and Excellence Commission’s report, “For Each and Every Child.”  Through the Performance Partnership Pilots Initiative, the budget request builds on the newly established initiative authorized in the 2014 appropriations act – designed to enhance administrative flexibility to improve outcomes and accountability for disconnected youth.  The budget also acknowledges the President’s recent launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative that will charge an interagency task force to evaluate public and private efforts that are working for young men of color, gauge how to expand effective interventions, and address how Federal policies and programs can better support the overall development of young men of color.

Pay for Success
President Obama continues to signal his Administration’s interest in and support for “pay-for-success” models under which private investors provide up-front funding for preventive services and are paid by government agencies only if and when the programs achieve desired outcomes.  The budget re-proposes a $300 million pay-for-success fund at the Treasury department to support state and local initiatives, as well as approval to support such efforts with existing funding in areas including job training, education, criminal justice, and housing.

While I applaud the President for putting forth a budget that proposes ending sequestration cuts in 2015 and 2016, strengthens programs for children and families, will reduce inequality, and strengthen the economy, I am disappointed that he did not include funding to overturn the two recent cuts to SNAP (food stamps), and he makes a deep cut to the LIHEAP (heating assistance) program.

Congress will be working on their 2015 spending bills. Let’s hope that they include many of the President’s proposals.

GROWING UP GRANITE

Here is a more detailed look at what the President has proposed for improving the health, education, and safety of America’s children and youth.

They include:

  • The Preschool for All initiative, a partnership with the states, to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds with access to high-quality preschool, while encouraging states to expand those programs to reach additional children from middle-class families and establish full-day kindergarten policies.
  • Access to high-quality infant and toddler care to a total of more than 100,000 children through Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, and support of Head Start grantees who are expanding program duration and investing in teacher quality, through additional funding in the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.
  • An expansion of evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs, which enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services to support the child’s health, development, ability to learn, and to prevent abuse and neglect.
  • A substantial commitment to both maintain the number of children served by the Child Care Development Fund and improve the quality of care, with sufficient mandatory funding to support more than 1.4 million children for a full ten years while investing in significant quality improvements.
  • Help for 100,000 teachers in 500 districts to make effective use of new broadband connectivity as the Administration works to achieve the President’s goal of connecting 99 percent of American students to the digital age through broadband and wireless in schools and libraries.
  • A modernization of the Child Support Enforcement Program, which touches the lives of one-quarter of the Nation’s children and helps secure contributions toward their financial and emotional well-being from non-custodial parents.
  • $299 million for the Justice Department’s Juvenile Justice Programs which include evidence-based investments to prevent youth violence.
  • The ongoing implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 with an increased investment of $35 million in school equipment grants to aid in the provision of healthy meals and continued support for other school-based resources.
  • $20 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher program to help more than 2.2 million low-income families afford decent housing in neighborhoods of their choice.
  • A strengthening of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by providing tools to States, Territories, and the Federal Government to fight fraud, waste, and abuse, and make it easier for eligible children to get and maintain coverage. The Budget also includes other program improvements aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness as States expand Medicaid.

Congress needs to act on the budget and give each proposal an up or down vote. Click here to contact your Member of Congress and tell them to support the children and youth initiatives in the President’s budget.

LIUNA Leaders From Across U.S. Pack Hill Offices, Press Congress on Key Priorities

Photo Credit: LiUNA!, Local 261
Photo Credit: LiUNA!, Local 261

Image from Facebook
Photo Credit: LiUNA!, Local 261

Washington, D.C. (March 11, 2014) – More than 300 LIUNA leaders from across the country are in Washington this week to have their voices heard by Congress. The local union leaders are scheduled to meet with more than 150 representatives and senators to discuss key issues ranging from the Affordable Care Act to the Highway Bill to the Keystone XL pipeline.

“LIUNA members are angry at inaction in Congress and their anger is bipartisan,” said Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Local leaders will urge Congress to:

  • Pass a well-funded and long long-term Highway Bill that creates jobs fixing our nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems;
  • Fix the Affordable Care Act, so the multi-employer health care plans many union members depend on aren’t unfairly impacted by the taxes imposed by the law;
  • Pass comprehensive immigration reform; and
  • Support the construction of the jobs-creating Keystone XL pipeline.

At the top of LIUNA’s agenda is strengthening the federal role in maintaining, fixing and making safer our nation’s transportation system, which provides work for about 70 percent of LIUNA construction members. In total, adequate investment could put about 8 million people to work over the next four years, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials.

Also the Affordable Care Act, passed by Democrats and signed into law by President Obama, now threatens the multi-employer health insurance plans that millions of working men and women have relied on for years. The law’s reinsurance tax could add more than a billion dollars to the costs in 2014 alone. Since the Administration has yet to fix its interpretation of the law, LIUNA has been working with other unions and employers in support of a bipartisan bill (HR 3489 ) that has been introduced by Representatives Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and  Dan Lipinski to repeal the Transitional Reinsurance Tax.

And among LIUNA’s longest fought battles has been the struggle to protect immigrant workers from abuse and exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous employers. LIUNA supports the bipartisan Senate-passed bill that awaits further action in the House of Representatives.

As LIUNA leaders make their way to Capitol Hill, O’Sullivan is speaking out, with other allies, in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Designed to be one of the safest ever constructed, the pipeline could be a life line for tens of thousands of workers in need of a job. TransCanada has executed a Project Labor Agreement with the four pipeline construction crafts that guarantee wage and benefit packages that will help more workers earn their way into America’s middle class. Now that the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement shows that the project won’t have a significant impact on the environment, there is no more excuse for further delay.