U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Budget and Armed Services committees, delivered a speech on the Senate floor today urging his colleagues to pass the proposed spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year -- the next step toward returning to an orderly budget process. Kaine argued that while appropriations for the current fiscal year should have been completed last fall, the spending bill introduced in the Senate is an opportunity to bolster funding for defense programs as well as Homeland Security, Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and Science.
"The good news is we can fix it and improve it and the Appropriations Committee's work discussed today is a way to begin to do that," said Kaine. "We have a chance to get it right and reduce the effects of sequester by dealing effectively with the expiring CR for fiscal year 2013 and then producing a pro-growth 2014 budget. This is the work before this body in the next few weeks and we need to do our very best work."
Kaine noted certain funding for the rest of the year would allow Virginia shipyards to move forward with delayed construction, as well as repairs to facilities including the USS Roosevelt and the USS Lincoln. It would also help to close an $11 billion operations and maintenance shortfall. Budget uncertainty has acutely hit Virginia and resulted in hundreds of WARN notices, thousands of furloughs, and the delayed deployment of the USS Truman. Last week, Kaine met with the Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Chief of Staff of the Army, and Chief of Staff of the Air Force to discuss budget uncertainty's impact on workforce and readiness, and heard from enlisted and civilian employees at the Pentagon about how it affects their lives. Kaine also visited a defense contractor in Fredericksburg that has delayed hiring until there is set funding for the remainder of the year.
"We need to align our spending around this year's priorities and not be locked into funding the priorities of the past I strongly support the approach that the Appropriations committee under its leadership has worked on," Kaine said. "It's good for the United States, it's good for Virginia and it represents a move to forward looking budgeting rather than playing out of last year's playbook."
Despite years of budgeting by gimmicks, Kaine noted there are signs of progress including a bipartisan year-end accord on the Bush tax cuts, agreement not to use the debt ceiling as leverage, and the Senate returning to budgetary order. As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, Kaine praised the release of Fiscal Year 2014 budgets from both houses this week to move toward an orderly process to provide more certainty for families and businesses in Virginia and across the country.
"While there are real and significant differences and we will lay those on the table and debate them with vigor over the next few days and weeks, the American public will see this process unfold," said Kaine. "They expect us to debate, listen, find reasonable compromises."
Kaine has decried manufactured crises and budget gimmicks that are detrimental to civilian employees, contractors, and have cost the economy jobs. He also noted Congress is in a unique position to not only avert damaging impacts, but also to build on recent positive economic signs.
"We've seen some recent positive economic news - the jobs report Friday, some of the news about housing, the stock market. There are some positive economic trends that are starting to develop. Congress can accelerate these trends. Congress can accelerate the improvement of the American economy if we keep taking these reasonable steps forward to find a reasonable budgetary path," Kaine said. "This work on the CR bill defining an appropriations path for the remainder of the year is one of those positive steps and I applaud the committee leadership for doing so."
The Senate Budget Committee is expected to mark-up its budget this week.