Obama Unveils $3.9 Trillion 'Opportunity Agenda' Budget
WASHINGTON – President Obama issued a $3.9 trillion budget proposal for 2015 on Tuesday that contains heavy new investments in infrastructure upgrades, education and job training.
The package, released about a month late in the wake of a two-year spending plan adopted by Congress and signed by the president in December, received little support in the Republican-controlled House – which is expected to release its own proposal shortly – and may not even get much consideration in the Senate.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, characterized the White House blueprint as “unserious,” asserting that it’s “just the type of silly politicking we’ll need to get past.”
“First of all, it could probably never even pass the Democrat-led Senate,” McConnell said. “And in some sense, that’s the point. Rather than put together a constructive blueprint the two parties could use as a jumping off point to get our economy moving and our fiscal house in order, the president has once again opted for the political stunt — for a budget that’s more about firing up the president’s base in an election year than about solving the nation’s biggest and most persistent long-term challenges.”
McConnell said the White House plan would increase taxes by well over a trillion dollars “in the worst economic slowdown nearly anyone can remember,” increase spending by $790 billion and “do almost nothing to address the most serious threats facing our children’s’ futures.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed with the McConnell analysis, asserting that "after years of fiscal and economic mismanagement the president has offered perhaps his most irresponsible budget yet.”
"American families looking for jobs and opportunity will find only more government in this plan,” Boehner said. “Spending too much, borrowing too much and taxing too much, it would hurt our economy and cost jobs."
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, has made it clear that her panel won’t even consider adopting a budget this year, instead heading directly to the appropriations process, using the parameters established in the December agreement.
“The president’s budget proposal is a strong blueprint for building on our bipartisan budget deal to create jobs, expand opportunities and tackle our deficits and debt fairly and responsibly,” Murray said. “The two-year bipartisan budget deal signed into law in December was a strong step in the right direction but it shouldn’t be the last step we take. So while the American people have a budget in place and the certainty they deserve that there won’t be another budget crisis through the end of 2015, we in Congress owe it to them to work together to build on that bipartisan foundation.”
Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said he was concerned about included cuts to homeland security grant programs, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the budget blueprint would need work to "address those areas where the president’s proposals fall short.”
The president’s 2015 executive budget proposal calls for spending about $56 billion above the total agreed to in the two-year budget agreement. About $1.2 trillion of the $3.9 trillion is targeted at discretionary programs – those areas where Congress and the White House maintain some spending controls. The remaining $2.7 trillion heads mostly to entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security while the remainder is dedicated to making interest payments on the federal debt and funding benefits for federal government retirees and veterans.
The additional $56 billion in proposed spending is split equally between the military and domestic sides of the ledger. The plan includes initiatives to support manufacturing facilities, job training and preschool programs, to be paid for by reducing special interest tax breaks and cutting programs in other areas, including farm subsidies.
A centerpiece of the package is a four-year, $302 billion plan to increase spending on highways, rail projects, mass transit and other transportation needs. Corporate taxes would account for half of the spending on what Obama has long complained is the nation’s sagging infrastructure.
The current transportation funding bill expires at the end of September. While the president’s plan may not be embraced, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are determined to come up with a way to address the nation’s travel needs and provide additional financial support to supplement the $18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax.
Obama also is looking to double the earned-income tax credit for low-wage workers to $1,000 annually and spend $76 billion over 10 years to assist state initiatives to offer preschool education to 4 year olds.
The president included, as he has discussed in the past, an offer to overhaul a corporate tax code that businesses maintain assesses the world’s highest corporate tax rate at 35 percent.
In releasing the budget during an appearance at Powell Elementary School in Washington, Obama said his “opportunity agenda” is built on four parts -- more good jobs and good wages, improved training to provide workers with the skills they need for the future, a guarantee to provide every child access to a world-class education and assuring that the nation’s economy is one in which hard work is rewarded.
“The budget I sent Congress this morning lays out how we’ll implement this agenda in a balanced and responsible way,” he said. “It’s a roadmap for creating jobs with good wages and expanding opportunity for all Americans. And at a time when our deficits have been cut in half, it allows us to meet our obligations to future generations without leaving them a mountain of debt. This budget adheres to the spending levels that both parties in both houses of Congress already agreed to. But it also builds on that progress with what we’re calling an Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative that invests in our economic priorities in a smart way that is fully paid for by making smart spending cuts and closing tax loopholes that right now only benefit the well-off and the well-connected.”
But Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, replied that the president’s budget “is yet another disappointment because it reinforces the status quo” and stressed that he will unveil his own spending plan next month.
“It would demand that families pay more so Washington can spend more,” Ryan said of Obama’s plan. “It would hollow out our defense capabilities. And it would do nothing to preserve or strengthen our entitlements. The president has just three years left in his administration, and yet he seems determined to do nothing about our fiscal challenges.”