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Public Statements

The President's Budget

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BLUMENAUER. I welcome the President's budget submission, which will mark the first time since 2009 that the House, the Senate, and the President have all submitted budgets. It's an encouraging development, but the larger question is whether Congress can actually use the budgeting process to show how we will do business differently.

Despite the media sideshows about the artificial sequestration crisis, the major issues we have to address to fix the budget and our current deficit are spending on defense, health care, and the tax system itself.

Although the administration has started us down a path to manage Pentagon spending in the future, we have barely scratched the surface. There are too many unnecessary bases at home and abroad that should be phased down or closed. There's far too much invested in an antiquated nuclear arsenal that we haven't used in 68 years and contains many, many times more weapons than we would ever need for deterrence. The $700 billion scheduled to be spent over the next 10 years must be reduced dramatically. We have yet to come to grips with the long-term costs of an all-volunteer Army and the right balance between reserve and regular forces. Until these fundamental issues are addressed, the challenges of the future are going to be difficult to face because we spend too much time and energy and money preparing for the conflicts of the past while we avoid hard budget reality.

Health care expenditures continue to be the greatest overall threat to the budget, but not because the United States doesn't spend enough money on health care. We spend more than anybody else in the world--twice as much as many countries. But even spending far more than anybody else, we're still not able to deliver quality health care for most Americans. Instead of fighting health care reform, we should be working together to accelerate that process so that we can reward value over volume of health care. If the Oregon model of health care that we are working on diligently to implement were applied on a national scale, it could save over $1 trillion over the next 10 years--as much as was fought about in the battle over sequestration.

We must also reform the Tax Code, which is unfair, complex, and costly, with over $160 billion just to administer it. I would suggest that we think about implementing a carbon tax, which has the potential of reducing the deficit and tax rates for individuals and business in a fair and comprehensive form. The carbon tax has the added benefit of being the most direct way to reduce the threat to the planet caused by extreme weather events promoted by carbon pollution.

It's very encouraging that the President's budget again speaks to infrastructure improvement and investment, but we need to be bolder and more comprehensive in our approach, especially at how we deal with funding rebuilding and renewing America. At a time when 17 States have stepped up to increase transportation funding, it's unacceptable that we pay for the highway trust fund with a gas tax that hasn't been increased since 1993 and is increasingly collecting less money as fuel efficiency improves.

The introduction of the President's budget is an important step forward. It will hopefully spark an earnest, thoughtful, focused discussion about how we do business differently, how we pay for the needs of a growing and aging America, and how we can get more value for the investments we are already making, all while laying the foundation for a more prosperous future.


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