Letter to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Obey:
Thank you for your work advancing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. Like you, we believe that Congress must pass a robust economic recovery package that will get our economy moving in the right direction again. We also understand the enormous challenges you face developing a compromise plan that suits the Senate, the House, the President, and most importantly, the American people.
Nevada has been one of the States hardest hit by the recent economic downturn. Our unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent- well above the national average of 7.6 percent. Nevada also has the highest foreclosure rate and the highest rate of personal bankruptcy filings in the nation. In short, the economic situation is particularly grim for Nevadans. With state revenues lower than ever, the Governor has proposed a budget for state programs of $6.17 billion - 9.3 percent less than in 2007.
That is why we were particularly pleased to support significant investments in education in the House version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. Education funding available through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund will help States avoid steep cuts to K-12 and higher education and lead to a better prepared workforce for the 21st century.
As you know, H.R. 1 includes "maintenance of effort" language, requiring that states maintain support for elementary and secondary education and higher education at least at the FY 2006 level in order to be eligible for funding under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund in FY 2009 and 2010. While we certainly agree that states should be held accountable for maintaining appropriate levels of funding for education programs on their own balance sheets, we believe it would be helpful to build in a degree of flexibility for those states facing the worst budget shortfalls.
The Senate version of the economic recovery bill provides the Secretary of Education with the authority to waive or modify the "maintenance of effort" provision in order to ease the financial burden on a state. As differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill are resolved in conference negotiations, we ask for your support in assuring that the House adopts language providing the Secretary with this waiver authority in the final version of the recovery package. A waiver of this nature will give states like Nevada the best chance to receive the funding they so desperately need for critical education programs.
Thank you for your hard work and consideration of this matter.
Dina Titus Shelley Berkley
Member of Congress Member of Congress