Washington, D.C— Today, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at the BakerHostetler 25th Annual Legislative Seminar, and highlighted ways to build on the two-year bipartisan budget deal to create jobs, opportunity, and broad based economic growth. In her speech, Murray explained that Congress must continue to tackle long term budget challenges, while not losing focus on the growing deficits in critical areas like jobs, education, infrastructure, research and innovation, and opportunity. Murray highlighted specific policies that Congress should focus on this year including avoiding a potential crisis when the Highway Trust Fund reaches critically low levels this summer, improving the workforce training system, investing in access to high-quality preschool, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit through the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act, and addressing comprehensive immigration reform.
Key Excerpts From Senator Murray’s Speech:
“…there are a lot of pundits out there right now who say nothing is going to happen in Congress until after Election Day. They may be right, but I hope they aren’t. And I am going to spend the next six months fighting to prove them wrong. Because there is a whole lot we need to get done to create jobs and protect our fragile economic recovery, and the American people are expecting more than political posturing, even in an election year.”
“We absolutely have serious long-term budget challenges that need to be addressed, and we have a tax code that needs to be reformed fairly and responsibly. So I am ready to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, who is interested in tackling these challenges. But, you know, while our budget deficits have received a lot of attention over the past few years, our other deficits have too often been ignored. While other countries are investing in their long-term growth, we face growing deficits in jobs, education, infrastructure, research and innovation, and opportunity.”
“I recently introduced a bill called the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act that would expand the popular Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers, and create a new deduction for working families with young children –who, due to marriage penalties in our tax code and other factors, often face extremely high implicit tax rates on the second earner’s wages. Republicans talk a lot about encouraging work and cutting taxes, so I hope they join me on this bill that would do both of these things”
“…if we can keep the bipartisan momentum going, we can keep working to address all of our deficits fairly and responsibly, replace the remaining years of sequestration the way Chairman Ryan and I proved is possible, and make the investments in jobs, economic growth, and opportunity that families and business owners across the country are expecting”
Full Text Of Senator Murray’s Speech:
“Thank you so much Lucy for that introduction It was an honor to take over the Senate Budget Committee from your husband, Chairman Kent Conrad—and to build on the work he’s been doing for so many years.
“I want to thank BakerHostetler, the Federal Policy Group, and the Yale Club for inviting me to speak here today. And I want to congratulate you on 25 years of bringing together business leaders, members of Congress and the Administration, and people from across the country to discuss the key issues facing our nation.
“Today I want to talk a little bit about the path we’ve been on here in D.C. over the past few years, the bipartisan budget deal that pulled us back from the brink, and what we can do to build on that bipartisan foundation to continue working to create jobs, opportunities, and broad-based economic growth.
“As all of you in this room know, Congress has spent far too much time over the past few years lurching from crisis to crisis, stumbling from one artificial deadline to the next, and too often engaging in petty partisan bickering instead of solving problems. We went from debt limit scares in 2011, to a fiscal cliff being averted on New Year’s Day last year, to sequestration kicking in and devastating defense and non-defense investments with arbitrary, across-the-board cuts.
“The Senate passed a budget at the beginning of last year, but then a minority of Republicans stood up and blocked us from going to conference with the House—despite the best efforts of Republicans like Senator McCain and Senator Collins who tried to convince their colleagues to let us get in a room and work this out. And since we couldn’t even start negotiations, we were pushed into a completely unnecessary government shutdown in October and another debt limit scare that rattled the markets and shook the confidence of business owners across the country. It took almost two weeks, but the minority of members who led us over the cliff finally buckled to the public pressure, reopened the government, let us pay our bills, and started that budget conference I’d been trying to start for months.
“When Chairman Ryan and I sat down together after the government shutdown ended, we faced a lot of skepticism that we would be able to get anything done. Every bipartisan budget group that met over the past few years had ended the same way: with gridlock and inaction.
“And coming so soon after the partisanship and bitterness surrounding the government shutdown, many people thought there was just no way Democrats and Republicans could work together for the good of the country. We came into our budget conference knowing we weren’t going to agree on everything. We came in with very different budgets, very different ideologies, and very different values and priorities. But we also came ready to listen to each other, put partisanship aside, find some common ground, and make some compromises.
“Paul and I spent a lot of time in our initial conversations talking about our families, about fishing, and about football. We didn't really know each other very well when we started, and building that foundation of trust was very important to us. We needed to convince each other that we were not going to use what happened in that room to score political points, that we would negotiate in good faith, and that we actually both wanted a deal—not to simply position ourselves to assign blame for another D.C. failure.
“Something I’ve learned over the years is that even during the most partisan times, when Congress seems hopelessly divided- bipartisan negotiations can be productive if you are able to see the person sitting across the table from you as a potential collaborator, not an adversary. You need to be able to put ego aside, not be so concerned with who will be seen as winning or losing the negotiation, and focus on finding a path to a compromise that solves problems and moves the country in the right direction.
“Taking hostages, making demands, and saying ‘it's my way or the highway’ may get you attention—and there are certainly a lot of people around here who enjoy that—but it doesn't get you results. Paul and I worked in that conference toward something we thought was attainable given the short time frame and political climate. And I am very proud that we were able to reach a deal that showed the American people that their government can work for them, and that the dysfunction of the past few years is not an inevitable fact of our divided government.
“That two-year deal, the Bipartisan Budget Act, prevented another government shutdown and set bipartisan spending levels through the end of 2015. It replaced almost two-thirds of this year’s across-the-board cuts to domestic investments. And it prevented another round of defense cuts that were scheduled to go into effect earlier this year. Because it was a two-year deal it has allowed the Appropriations Committees to start their work on next year’s spending bills, and will hopefully allow us to run a smooth budget process this year.
“The bipartisan budget deal was a step in the right direction. But it was only a step. It wasn’t exactly the deal Democrats would have done on our own. And I know it’s not what Republicans would have done on their own. But the agreement moved us away from the dysfunction that has defined Congress over the past few years. It sent a strong signal that there is bipartisan support for replacing the automatic cuts from sequestration that are scheduled to kick in again in 2016. It laid out a blueprint for future negotiations over budget levels. It made it clear the path to success runs through compromise and negotiation—not brinkmanship or constant crises. And now we all have a responsibility to keep that bipartisan work going.
“You know, there are a lot of pundits out there right now who say nothing is going to happen in Congress until after Election Day. They may be right, but I hope they aren’t. And I am going to spend the next six months fighting to prove them wrong. Because there is a whole lot we need to get done to create jobs and protect our fragile economic recovery, and the American people are expecting more than political posturing, even in an election year.
“Since 2010, we have passed legislation reducing our deficit by $3.3 trillion—most of the way toward the bipartisan goal of $4 trillion laid out by Simpson-Bowles. We’ve stabilized the deficit as a share of the economy in the near term. And the deficit for this fiscal year is expected to be less than a third of what it was five years ago. We absolutely have serious long-term budget challenges that need to be addressed, and we have a tax code that needs to be reformed fairly and responsibly. So I am ready to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, who is interested in tackling these challenges.
“But, you know, while our budget deficits have received a lot of attention over the past few years, our other deficits have too often been ignored. While other countries are investing in their long-term growth, we face growing deficits in jobs, education, infrastructure, research and innovation, and opportunity.
“When I talk to business owners back in Washington state and across the country—they understand this very well. They recognize the need for investments in R&D and capital. They know if you cut critical research to eliminate your short-term deficit—your business pays the price in the long-term. If you let your trucks fall apart to avoid higher costs this quarter—you are costing your company more in the long run. And if you don’t invest in your workers—your business is going to pay the price.
“As a nation, we have a whole lot of work to do to address all of our deficits fairly and responsibly, and to position our families, workers, and businesses to compete and win in the 21st century economy. But here are just few ways we can get started that I am hopeful we can move on in the next few months.
“First, we are headed toward a completely avoidable crisis this summer when the Highway Trust Fund is projected to run out of money and construction projects across the country could shut down.
“Democrats and Republicans have put forward plans to fill the trust fund using corporate revenue, including President Obama and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp. I think this approach makes sense, and I don’t think we need to wait until comprehensive tax reform to do it. Of the long list of wasteful corporate loopholes that Democrats and Republicans agree should be closed, surely we can find a way to agree on eliminating just a few of the most egregious ones to invest in jobs and economic growth and prevent an unnecessary crisis. So I am hopeful we can reach a bipartisan solution to this problem, and that we don’t have to wait until the last minute.
“Second, Democrats and Republicans have been talking for years about the need to improve our workforce training system to help businesses, workers, and the economy.
“At a time when millions of workers are still desperately trying to get back on the job, far too many businesses say they can’t find workers with the skills and training they need to fill their open positions. This ‘skills gap’ is holding back our economic recovery and it needs to be addressed. The House and the Senate have each put forward different visions for reforming our workforce training system, and I have been working closely with a strong group of Democrats and Republicans across both chambers on a bill to streamline, modernize, and improve critical workforce development and job training services that benefit millions of workers and employers. And I think we have a chance to get that done this year.
“Tackling this deficit will also involve addressing the issue of college affordability and making sure schools have high-quality STEM programs to prepare students for the jobs of the 21st century economy, but a strong workforce training bill this year would be a great step in the right direction.
“Third, Democrats and Republicans across the country are investing in high-quality preschool, it’s time for the federal government to step up to the plate. Universal pre-k would not only help our youngest children and pay dividends in future economic growth, it would also empower millions of women who would be able to go to work knowing their kids are learning and thriving.
“Fourth, I recently introduced a bill called the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act that would expand the popular Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers, and create a new deduction for working families with young children –who, due to marriage penalties in our tax code and other factors, often face extremely high implicit tax rates on the second earner’s wages.
“Republicans talk a lot about encouraging work and cutting taxes, so I hope they join me on this bill that would do both of these things. This wouldn’t solve our opportunity deficit on its own, not by a long shot. I am also going to keep fighting to raise the minimum wage, ensure that women are paid equally for equal work, and more. But it would be a step in the right direction and something we should be able to get done.
“Finally, I believe comprehensive immigration reform is critical to addressing so many of our deficit, including our budget deficit. In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans were able to come together and pass a strong bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.
“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that passing the Senate bill would grow our economy by $1.4 trillion over the next 20 years. And that it would reduce our deficits by nearly $900 billion over the next twenty years.
“I know it won’t be easy for the House to get moving on this, it seems like the Tea Party gets upset each time Speaker Boehner even mentions the words ‘immigration reform.’ But the American people are expecting us to get this done, and I am hopeful that House Republicans show some leadership and do the right thing.
“Those five policies aren’t going to solve every problem we face as a nation, they aren’t the only ones I will be focused on over the next few months, and they won’t address every one of the deficits I mentioned before. But, they would build on the bipartisan work we started with the two-year budget deal, they would kick-start the work families across the country are expecting us to continue doing to create jobs, economic growth, and opportunities across the country.
“And if we can keep the bipartisan momentum going, we can keep working to address all of our deficits fairly and responsibly, replace the remaining years of sequestration the way Chairman Ryan and I proved is possible, and make the investments in jobs, economic growth, and opportunity that families and business owners across the country are expecting.
“I would now be happy to take some questions.”