CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2009 -- (Senate - March 10, 2008)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. STABENOW. First, I thank our colleague from Vermont, who is passionate and cares very deeply about people in the country, about their future, and about the children. I could not agree more with him about what has been the underfunding of a very important investment, and that is special education.
The Federal Government was supposed to pay 40 percent of special education and has never, I believe, gotten over 18 or 19 percent. So I thank the Senator for the amendment he will offer later.
I thank the Budget Committee chairman also who is someone who does such an extraordinary job on a daily basis on such a wide range of issues. There is no one more committed to the long-term fiscal health of the country, no one more committed to getting our priorities right, no one who works more effectively across the aisle to bring people together to do the right thing. So I thank our distinguished colleague, the chairman of the Budget Committee, for all of his incredible leadership and pointing us in the right direction and creating a budget resolution that I am proud of.
Mr. CONRAD. Will the Senator yield?
Ms. STABENOW. Yes.
Mr. CONRAD. I thank the distinguished Senator from Michigan, who is an incredibly valuable member of the Budget Committee, and also incredibly important member of the Finance Committee and the Agriculture Committee. We are able to serve on three committees together, and that is rare around here. My admiration for her grows every day. In terms of her leadership, we could not have produced a budget resolution as responsible as this one, nor one that embraces the needs of the American people and their values as closely as this one without the leadership of the Senator from Michigan. I wanted to tell her how much I appreciate that.
Ms. STABENOW. I thank the Senator. That means a lot.
Mr. President, I am going to take a few minutes because I expect to have multiple opportunities in which to participate and talk about various parts of the budget resolution that I believe reflect the values and priorities of the American people. That is what budgets are. That is what our own individual budgets are.
When we look at our checkbooks and where we spend our money, we hope it reflects the values we want to project. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't in my own budget, my own checkbook. But the reality is, that is our job in terms of the Federal budget and where we invest that makes sense for American families.
I have to say that listening to colleagues tonight, as I had the opportunity to preside--colleagues on the other side of the aisle--I heard more of the same, unfortunately, that we have seen for the last 8 years. Six of those eight years have been dominated by colleagues on the other side of the aisle, by a Republican President and a Republican Congress. Unfortunately, in my mind, when we talk about what they are going to propose, in totality what we see is more debt. We see more tax cuts for the wealthiest among us, more spending in Iraq and, at the same time, we see less investment in America. That is exactly the opposite of what we ought to be doing.
Our budget changes that. It focuses on balancing the budget by 2012 and 2013. It provides middle-class tax cuts so we can make sure the folks who are trying to hold things together--everybody talks about middle-class families and middle-class people being squeezed, seeing gas prices and health care and childcare costs go up. Yet the reality is, unfortunately, the budget put forward by the President doesn't help them at all. I am proud to say we have a budget that, in fact, invests in America. I want to speak to one piece of that.
Last year, we set up three main priorities for our budget, and I was very proud of those--one to fully fund veterans health care and make sure we are keeping the promises to the veterans of America. We did it last year, and we are doing it again this year. We will continue, as long as we are in the majority, to make sure that is the case. We want to make sure people have the opportunity to go to college. We passed the largest package since the GI bill after World War II. No. 3 was children's health insurance, which we passed on a bipartisan basis. It was an extraordinary effort. We actually had the votes to overturn a Presidential veto and could not do that in the House of Representatives. We added 10 million children to the Children's Health Insurance Program, which gives them the opportunity to make sure their children have health insurance.
This year, we continue those things, but we have three more items we have picked. Mr. President, just to be simple, what I would say is our priorities are jobs, jobs, jobs. I can tell you, coming from the great State of Michigan, that is certainly what we want our focus to be on. We are talking about middle-income families who are struggling. And the best stimulus that you can possibly give somebody is a good-paying job so they can pay their bills, take care of their family, send their kids to college, and be able to have the American dream. I am very proud of the fact that our budget focuses on three priorities: jobs, jobs, jobs. How?
We have three pieces in our budget. We focus on green-collar jobs. I am very proud of the fact that the initiative I put forward is incorporated. The Presiding Officer is passionate about pieces of this legislation as well. We know there is a new economy. We know that alternative energy and moving forward in ways that will address global warming and stop our dependence on foreign oil can create jobs as well. So we have a major new initiative in this bill for green-collar jobs.
Secondly, jobs rebuilding America--water projects, sewers, roads, bridges. We are at a point in our country where we have an aging infrastructure. A lot of we baby boomers are aging but at the same time so is the infrastructure around us. The great thing about investing and rebuilding America is that these are not jobs you can outsource to another country; these are jobs right here in America--good-paying jobs. That is our second priority.
Our third priority is to continue our focus on education and job training. We know we need to refocus on job training and on those who lost jobs because of trade by fully funding trade adjustment assistance for people to go back to school and gain new opportunities.
Mr. President, we are saying jobs, jobs, jobs. I want to focus specifically on the piece in which I have been most involved. This is very exciting. We passed an energy bill last year with a number of programs in it that were not funded but that were great ideas. This year, we come back and say let's make those things a reality in this budget.
Energy efficiency and conservation: Providing over $1.1 billion for State and local communities to not only focus on energy efficiency and conservation but buildings and weatherization. There is a huge amount of energy savings to be had by focusing in this area. It also creates lots and lots of jobs. It will put people to work weatherizing buildings and focusing on energy efficiency.
Advanced batteries: For us to go where we want to go in terms of new alternative fuel vehicles, it involves focusing on advanced battery technology. We are doing that but not nearly as fast as other countries. In the American budget last year, there was $22 million. Yet you can look over to China, Japan, and South Korea where hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent. As a result of that, we see very tangible things happening. When Ford Motor Company came forward with the first Ford Escape hybrid, an American SUV hybrid, unfortunately, even though the brain power came from here and the engineering came from here, the battery came from Japan because we weren't making them here.
We don't want to change from dependence on foreign oil to a dependence on foreign technology. So investing in the future in battery technology is incredibly important, not only for vehicles but battery storage is critical for such things as winds turbines, solar, and other areas where we need to be able to move forward with alternative energy. Battery storage is critical. I am proud that we put forward for the first time an aggressive investment in innovation and production here at home.
Retooling older plants. As we have new standards for fuel efficiency coming into play, we want to make sure we are retooling our old plants to keep American jobs here, biofuel production and access, meaning infrastructure. I come from a State where we are growing the biofuels and making the automobiles. If you cannot drive up to the service station and fuel with E-85 or biofuel, it is not going to matter in the end.
So being able to have that infrastructure and investment in infrastructure is absolutely critical. Finally, a green job training program to refocus on those jobs we know are there for the future. Again, the Presiding Officer has been a passionate advocate, and I know he believes strongly that jobs and energy and focusing on global warming and jobs can go together, and that is what this does. This says we are going to take this first step to focus on the American people.
What I will say again, as we go forward, there are many items that are in this budget that are very important. But what I am very proud of is the fact that we have put forward a budget resolution with three very simple priorities: jobs, jobs, jobs. And that is right where the American people are. People want American jobs where they can care for their families, they can have the dignity of work, they can have good wages and be able to have an American dream. This budget resolution is laser-focused on that priority.
I thank the Chair.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT