WASHINGTON – President Obama’s extraordinarily tardy budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014 is expected to include new funding for infrastructure improvement and scientific research but won’t offer a path toward reconciling spending with revenues any time in the near future.
The package, due Feb. 4 and slated for release on April 10, might also provide significant changes in entitlement programs like Social Security, perhaps altering the manner in which cost of living increases are calculated, resulting in smaller checks to beneficiaries.
“The president’s budget will achieve what it has in the past, which is through sensible, balanced deficit reduction, bring our deficit and debt into a place where we are on a fiscally sustainable path, where the ratio of debt to GDP is below 3 percent, and to do that in a way that also allows us to invest in our economy so that we’re building infrastructure for the future and we’re increasing our energy independence, and making sure that our kids are being educated so we can compete 25 years from now and not just today,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Unlike the spending plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, the Obama package will not produce a balanced budget over a 10-year window. It will, Carney said, “achieve a compromise that allows for both entitlement reform and tax reform that produce the savings necessary” to reduce the deficit during that period by more than $4 trillion.
The president’s top priority, Carney said, is “economic growth and job creation, not deficit reduction solely for the purpose of reducing the deficit.”
That effort, he said, will “put our economy on a fiscally sustainable path.”
Under federal law, the president is expected to produce an executive branch budget by the first Monday in February. Obama has failed to meet the target every year save for 2009, his first year in office.
This year is no exception, save for the fact that it is even later than usual – about nine weeks overdue. The administration attributes the delay to extended negotiation with Congress over sequestration – across-the-board cuts required by a prior budget agreement – and the appointment of a new director of the Office of Management and Budget, that being Jack Lew.
Congressional Republicans have blasted the administration’s tardiness and expressed disappointment that the president’s proposal will fail to balance the budget.
“It almost seems the president believes all spending is stimulating the economy and no spending, even wasteful spending, should be cut,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.
The administration has hinted at some new initiatives in the upcoming budget plan, a large portion dealing with the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers, which recently awarded America’s infrastructure a rating of D+, placed total investment needs at $3.6 trillion by 2020 — leaving a funding shortfall of $1.6 trillion based on current funding levels.
“We must commit today to investing in modern, efficient infrastructure systems to position the U.S. for economic prosperity,” said Gregory E. DiLoreto, the organization’s president. “Infrastructure can either be the engine for long-term economic growth and employment, or it can jeopardize our nation’s standing if poor roads, deficient bridges and failing waterways continue to hurt our economy.”
In response, Obama is expected to propose a program called the Partnership to Rebuild America, with an estimated price tag of $21 billion. The initiative has three parts:
- The creation of a fund, better known as an infrastructure bank, to attract private and public investment for projects selected based on their benefit to the overall economy.
- The formation of a new bond program – America Fast Forward – intended to provide local and state governments with more flexibility and power to attract private investment for public projects.
- Strengthening a loan program for transportation projects that, in the past, has helped governors and mayors leverage four times the money Washington put into it.