Cantwell Statement on President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 Federal Budget
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) issued the following statement today after the release of President Obama's fiscal year 2011 federal budget:
"As I continue to examine the details of the president's budget, I will look for common ground on my key priorities -- maintaining existing jobs and creating new ones while controlling spending and moving toward a balanced budget. Clearly the 2011 budget makes critical investments to spur job creation. These investments include several areas of importance to Washington state, including getting much-needed credit flowing to small businesses, promoting American exports, opening new markets abroad for our products, and helping to build the new clean energy economy. What follows are my initial observations:
Restoring Fiscal Responsibility
· The president is working under tight fiscal constraints created by the economic crisis he inherited. In that context, he has committed to eliminating programs that do not spur economic growth and investing in those that do. We cannot afford to waste taxpayer dollars. The president recognizes that, and we in Congress must help make the tough choices to get spending under control. When President Obama took office, he inherited a deficit of over $8 trillion and an economy on the brink of depression. The economic crisis required immediate emergency funding to prevent a complete collapse, and now that the economy is on the road to recovery, the president rightfully is focusing on laying a new foundation for growth. Ultimately, a thriving economy and full employment, along with fiscal restraint, will restore our balanced budget.
Clean Energy Investments
· Even in this tough fiscal environment, we must continue to make prudent investments in our nation's infrastructure and economic growth. To that end, I support President Obama's request to increase Energy Department spending by 6.8 percent over this year, to a total of $28.4 billion. If we back down on clean energy research and development we will lose our competitive edge in what will be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.
· I strongly support the additional $5 billion in credits for competitively awarded investment in advanced energy projects. I helped author the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Credit in the Senate Finance Committee, but a cap on these new credits has meant that less than one-third of the acceptable applications could be funded. The president's funding leverages private sector dollars two-to-one, and there are many worthy projects already in the pipeline that will immediately create jobs and may very well lead to the next multi-billion dollar clean energy company.
· The President's budget request wisely contains nearly $300 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a program that I helped author in the 2007 Energy Bill, to fund transformational, high-risk, high-payoff energy technology projects. This funding will build on the $389 million provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to jump-start ARPA-E.
Relief for Community Banks and Small Businesses
· I am pleased to see the capital gains tax on investments in small businesses has been eliminated entirely. This is an extremely important move that will help create small business jobs that are the growth engine of our economy and speed economic recovery.
· Getting capital to small banks and businesses is far too urgent and must be done immediately. The president's requested $30 billion for small banks to lend to small businesses, in my view, is not sufficient to meet the demand. I am looking forward to the "special initiative that is designed to encourage widespread participation by small banks in increasing lending to small businesses in their communities" outlined by the president; however, I encourage the administration to do this immediately under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) program and not wait for Congress.
· The budget seeks to end the C-17 program. I question whether it is the time to end C-17 production. With thousands of U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thousands deployed in support of humanitarian situations like the recent earthquake in Haiti, I believe the U.S. needs to keep its airlift capacity at full strength. Foreign sales may also be lost if production is shut down. The United Kingdom, Australia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have purchased C-17s and more could be sold in the future. Finally, cutting this program will impact more than 20 suppliers across Washington state.
· I applaud the president for including an addition of $302 million to support the hiring or retention of police officers across the country. Over 150 local law enforcement agencies in Washington state sought Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring funds though ARRA, but less than 20 percent of applicants received funding. I was pleased to see that the president has the goal of hiring 8,900 additional police officers by FY2012 via COPS hiring programs to promote community policing.
Gang Violence and Violence Against Women
· It is significant to note that the president's budget includes $112 million for initiatives to combat violence in local communities, including $25 million for the Community-Based Violence Prevention Initiatives that aim to reduce gun and other violence among youth gangs, and $37 million for the Attorney General's Children Exposed to Violence Initiative. I have seen first-hand over the last several years how gang violence continues to plague communities from Spokane to Yakima to Seattle. Violent gang crime and the sale of drugs go hand-in-hand. Washington state communities need federal resources to effectively fight back.
· I am pleased the president's budget includes $538 million to support female victims of violence, including domestic abuse and sexual assault victims. This represents an increase of $120 million. Going forward, I will work to support grants to help women and local organizations throughout Washington state.
· I applaud the president's $799 million allocation for a joint Veterans Affairs-Housing and Urban Development (VA-HUD) initiative to work to decrease homeless veterans. By some accounts, there are thousands of homeless vets in Washington state alone and many more across our country. In one month during 2009, an emergency housing clinic for veterans in Spokane assisted more than 300 veterans who were homeless. Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and the Spokane VA have made solving this problem a priority. Likewise, President Obama is right to provide federal funding in the FY2011 budget request to help homeless veterans. It is unacceptable men and women who have served our country are now destitute and forced to live on the streets.
Coast Guard and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
· The budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) increased by over $800 million, a 17 percent increase. I have fought to increase NOAA's budget and am pleased with this request.
· I am pleased with the $100 million request to go toward ocean acidification research, coastal and marine spatial planning, competitive grants in support of regional ocean partnerships, integrated ecosystem assessments, and catch-share based fisheries management.
· Most of NOAA's budget increase is devoted to climate and weather satellite acquisitions and fixing the broken National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) satellite program. I definitely support efforts to fundamentally reform this program, although we have yet to hear the specific details.
· I am concerned that under the administration's spending plan, the Coast Guard's overall budget would decrease by 3.3 percent, including a 7.7 percent decrease in funding for boat safety from the 2010 level of $129 million to $119 million in 2011.
· Once again, the Coast Guard's polar icebreakers will be funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), so this funding is not included in the Coast Guard's budget. NSF funding for the icebreakers remains the same at $54 million. I am disappointed that this funding situation is not changing.
· I am disappointed the president's budget requests a 20 percent cut to the Market Access Program (MAP). MAP keeps America globally competitive by providing funds for groups supporting American agricultural products overseas. Last year I fought along with the Washington delegation to restore an identical proposed cut to MAP and won. Just three days ago, I lead a letter with 20 other Senators supporting full funding at the authorized level of $200 million in FY2011, and I will continue the effort.
· I am disappointed funding to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan programs is reduced in the FY2011 budget "in light of the expected recovery of the U.S. and global economies." These are loans that USDA makes available to farmers to supplement the commercial farm loan and Farm Credit System loans.
· The president's budget includes $444 million for Indian Health contract support costs (CSC). Contract support costs are the costs tribes incur in administering contracted health services. These costs have consistently been under-funded. This year's request is an increase of $46 million over the FY10 enacted amount of $398 million. I signed a letter to President Obama last September with nine other Senators supporting an increase in CSC and am pleased to see the requested increase.
· The president's budget provides $3.96 trillion for the Indian Health Service. This represents an increase of $303.5 million from FY2010.
· The President's budget provides $862,765,000 for Contract Health Services (CHS) in FY2011. While the increase in funding from FY2010 is appreciated, the program is still under-funded. From 2003 to 2008, CHS denials increased 88 percent from 19,121 to 35,953.
· The budget recognizes the underlying problems with the health care system, but without comprehensive reform (such as the PPACA), the system will self-destruct. I am pleased there is great emphasis on regional and underserved areas, which include rural parts of central and eastern Washington state as well as underserved areas throughout the state.
· The budget proposes an extension of the ARRA increase in Medicaid federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) payments through June 2011. This will provide upwards of $4.4 billion in federal funding to provide health care to low-income children and families across Washington state. Currently, the increased ARRA funding is set to expire on December 31, 2010. The expiration of this funding would be devastating to Washington state's Medicaid population. While this funding will help secure Washington's Medicaid program, I am disappointed it does not provide the funding necessary to secure Washington's Basic Health Plan.
· The budget provides for an increase of $48 million to a total of $416 million in funds available for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), as well as refunding at $30 million vital health and long-term care (LTC) programs. I have long-supported home and community based services as a cost-efficient option for those in need of LTC services. HCBS are upwards of 70 percent less expensive than traditional institutional long-term care and allow patients to remain active in their homes and communities. While this increase in funding will provide seniors and those in need of long-term care with increased access to HCBS, the underlying system needs to be reformed to provide states with the incentives necessary to rebalance away from institutional care and towards HCBS.
o As part of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA), I secured a provision that would provide states with enhanced Medicaid FMAP payments to transition patients away from institutional care and into home and community based services. Additionally, legislation I authored, Project 2020, provides for policies that would help divert people away from institutional care and into home and community based services before they become poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.
· The budget provides for nearly $2.8 billion in funding to improve access to primary care services, specifically targeting those in underserved and rural populations. This includes $2.5 billion nationally for health centers to increase access to care in underserved areas, $79 million for rural health and $169 million to improve the national health care workforce. Improving access to primary care in rural areas is one of my top health care reform priorities, as evidenced by a provision I included in the Senate-passed health care bill.
· The budget provides for $169 million in training and recruiting health care professionals as part of the National Health Service Corps. This represents an increase of $5 million in program funding and $21 million in recruitment funding -- which includes up to $50,000 in loan repayment assistance for primary care medical, dental and mental health clinicians in exchange for two years of service in a health professional shortage area (HPSA). There are 155 HPSAs in Washington state for primary care, 109 for dental and 106 for mental health.
Pell Grant Expansion
· The president's budget will build upon ARRA provisions and expand maximum Pell Grant awards from $5,500 to $5,710. This amounts to a $494.1 million
increase in the funding available to Washington students and will help more than 126,600 students in Washington state afford college.
· The budget seeks to change the Pell Grant program from a discretionary spending program to a mandatory spending program, which will allow it to better keep pace with rising tuition costs and inflation and make it a true entitlement program that needy families can count on. I have been a huge supporter of Pell expansion since 2000, having received Pell Grants myself to attend college, and I couldn't agree more with the president on this budget request.
· Currently, the average college student debt per borrower is $19,000. The cost of going to college has increased 43 percent since 2001. Now more than ever, it is critical that we provide assistance to needy students who face rising tuition costs and I applaud the president's efforts, though I believe more must be done to rein in rising tuition costs and increase access to student loans.