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Presidential FY2015 Budget Request

 

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HEARING BRIEF

 

Senate Budget Committee Discusses the President's FY 2015 Budget Request

 
Prepared by:
 
Washington Partners (wpllc@cur.org)
 
March 10, 2014
 
On Wednesday, March 5, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing titled, "The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Budget Proposal." Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) led the hearing, which focused on the President’s proposed funding for each federal agency in FY 2015.
 

Members Present

Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA); Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL); and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR); Bill Nelson (D-FL); Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Mark Warner (D-VA); Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Chris Coons (D-DE); Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Tim Kaine (D-VA); Bernard Sanders (I-VT); Angus King (I-ME); Charles Grassley (R-IA); Michael Enzi (R-WY); Michael Crapo (R-ID); Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Rob Portman (R-OH); Patrick Toomey (R-PA); Ron Johnson (R-WI); Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

Witnesses

  • The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director, Office of Management and Budget

Opening Statements

Chairwoman Murray convened the hearing by commending Burwell for her success as the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the past year. Murray alluded to the fiscal setbacks that led to the President’s delayed budget request and noted that the appropriations process for FY 15 will be on time, adhering to the two year budget agreement, the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA). The BBA is the compromise that she and the House Chairman of the Budget Committee Paul Ryan (R-WI) made in January. Murray spoke about the long term deficit reduction plan and the short term goals of creating jobs, improving education and investing in our nation’s future which are goals that she believes can be achieved through the President’s Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative. Murray highlighted some of the Administration’s deficit reduction goals in the budget to reduce the deficit including closing corporate tax loopholes, building on savings from the declining healthcare costs, and supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Murray closed her remarks by stating that the President’s budget request would take America in the right direction and is a "fiscally responsible request."
Ranking Member Sessions began his remarks by noting past testimony [in the Senate Budget Committee] from Dr. Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, that declared, "America is on an unsustainable fiscal path that will end in a fiscal crisis." He was surprised that the President asked for an increase in spending that surpasses the statutory caps that were set in the BBA.  He calculated that the President’s budget request would add $8 trillion to the nation’s debt, increasing the deficit from $17 to $25 trillion dollars. Sessions closed his remarks by challenging Burwell to acknowledge the BBA spending level caps and start asking departments to find savings instead of requesting funding increases.

Witness Statements

The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell Burwell began by noting that the President’s FY 15 budget request adheres to the spending levels set forth in the BBA and further shows the progress to be made through the ($56 billion) Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative that supports investments in education, infrastructure, research, and national security. She highlighted the progress that the Administration has made over the last few years including sustained deficit reduction, slowing down health care costs and changing the tax code, in the face of the economic factors that limited the growth such as sequestration, a government shutdown, and uncertainty over lifting the debt ceiling. Burwell acknowledged the BBA as an important beginning step, but stated that the "discretionary levels set by the BBA are not sufficient both in 2015 and beyond." In order to regain the global edge in basic research, the United States will have to provide funding to support: high-quality early education; training for teachers to use broadband technology in the classroom; and investments in communities through juvenile justice programs and Promise Neighborhoods, she said. Burwell stated that "expanding educational opportunities is critical to equipping all children with these skills and positioning them to succeed as adults" and further highlighted a few initiatives in the President’s budget critical to attaining this goal: Preschool for All, a new Race to the Top-Opportunity and Equity grant, Now is the Time initiative—to reduce gun violence in schools and communities, ConnectED and a new ConnectEDucators program, College Opportunity and Graduation Bonuses, expanded Pay As You Earn (PAYE) repayment options, and a new competitive Community College Job-Driven Fund. The list of education initiatives followed the Administration’s other top priorities: clean and efficient energy; increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour; investing in manufacturing through innovation institutions; and increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit. Then Burwell mentioned that the President’s new Opportunity, Growth, and Security initiative was fully paid for through specified health savings over ten years, reforming the tax code to reduce inefficient tax breaks and fixing the immigration system. Burwell finished her remarks asserting that, "The President’s budget provides a fiscal roadmap for delivering stronger growth and job creation, expanded opportunity for all Americans, and fiscal responsibility."

Member Questions

The Members’ question portion of the hearing consisted of strong political rhetoric with almost no mention of education. The Republican Members of the Senate Budget Committee directed argumentative questions towards Burwell about the President’s request for additional funding through the Opportunity, Growth, and Security initiative. They discredited Burwell’s projected estimates of revenue—through immigration reform, corporate tax reforms, and federal health care savings—and mentioned the future negative impact that entitlements may have on discretionary funding, which will only worsen with the President’s initiatives. Conversely, the Democratic Members generally accepted the President’s budget request and wanted to learn more about the federal funding streams that will most benefit their districts, with special attention drawn to the new manufacturing institution hubs. The only education related question was asked by Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) who noted that he supports high-quality preschool programs but also said there are too many federal programs for early education, including funding for "babysitting programs." Enzi asked Burwell if the Administration planned on consolidating some of the programs and transferring funds instead of creating additional programs. Burwell responded to Enzi’s inquiry by mentioning the Administration’s plan to connect some early learning programs together, especially some of the "babysitting" programs with early Head Start.
 

Conclusion and Additional Information