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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered remarks at a hearing to review the Department of Labor’s FY 2017 budget request. In her remarks, Senator Murray highlighted key priorities in the Administration’s proposal, and in particular, reiterated her support for efforts that expand access to apprenticeships and provide support for veterans and unemployed workers. Senator Murray also called for further action by the Department to protect workers’ paychecks by aggressively cracking down on federal minimum wage violations and updating overtime standards.

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Working with Chairman Blunt, I was very pleased that we were able to invest $90 million in an Apprenticeship Grant program in the 2016 Omnibus. Expanding access to apprenticeships has been a top priority for me, because it sets workers on clear career pathways and ladders into the middle class, and research shows that for every taxpayer dollar we spend on these programs, the return on investment is $27. So, I was pleased to see that the President’s proposal continues this important investment to develop comprehensive programs that expand apprenticeships across multiple sectors.”

 

“But helping our economy grow from the middle out requires more than making these training investments. It also calls for protecting workers’ basic rights. That starts with the Department updating overtime standards and Congress increasing the minimum wage and passing legislation to combat wage theft. I understand that we in Congress may not all agree on these issues. However, everyone should agree that every employer should comply with the law as it exists today. That’s why I was pleased to see the $49 million increase proposed in the budget for the Wage and Hour division.”

 

“It is important to remember the two-year budget agreement rolled back the automatic cuts and allowed us to restore key investments—but it didn’t go as far as many of us had hoped. That means, as it often does, that difficult choices will be unavoidable in 2017, they’ll just be tougher than last year. Even so, I believe our subcommittee can find a way to write a bipartisan bill once again, if we have an allocation that allows us to make the investments needed in worker training and other vital areas.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.

 

“Secretary Perez, thank you for being here today and for all that you and your department do to support our nation’s workforce.

 

“This is a critical moment in the American economy.

 

“While we have seen 72 straight months of job growth and unemployment has fallen below 5%, wages have only risen slightly in the past year and 8 million job seekers can’t find work. 

 

“Back in Washington state, I have seen clearly that when workers succeed, businesses succeed and the economy succeeds.

 

“I believe the only way to create sustainable economic growth is from the middle out – not the top down.

 

“Secretary Perez, I know that you agree and that this is central to the mission of the Department of Labor. 

 

“I look forward to your testimony and the discussion about the Department’s funding needs for fiscal year 2017.

 

“Expanding economic security for more Americans will require investments in the Department’s mission.

 

“The Department’s budget proposal for programs within this subcommittee’s jurisdiction totals almost $ 12.8 billion, which is an increase of $627 million over last year.

 

“The Department needs these investments to help ensure workers have the resources and support they need to improve their skills and move into 21st century careers and strengthen government policies that support working families. 

 

“I want to start by talking about the Administration’s vision for investing in training today’s workforce and preparing for the jobs of the future.

 

“Working with Chairman Blunt, I was very pleased that we were able to invest $90 million in an Apprenticeship Grant program in the 2016 Omnibus. 

 

“Expanding access to apprenticeships has been a top priority for me, because it sets workers on clear career pathways and ladders into the middle class, and research shows that for every taxpayer dollar we spend on these programs, the return on investment is $27.

 

“So, I was pleased to see that the President’s proposal continues this important investment to develop comprehensive programs that expand apprenticeships across multiple sectors.

 

“The proposal also includes investments in programs that provide comprehensive, in-person support for veterans and unemployed workers.

 

“Those programs have proven to be effective at helping connect workers with good jobs.

 

“But helping our economy grow from the middle out requires more than making these training investments. 

 

“It also calls for protecting workers’ basic rights. 

 

“That starts with the Department updating overtime standards and Congress increasing the minimum wage and passing legislation to combat wage theft. 

 

“I understand that we in Congress may not all agree on these issues. 

 

‘However, everyone should agree that every employer should comply with the law as it exists today. 

 

“That’s why I was pleased to see the $49 million increase proposed in the budget for the Wage and Hour division. 

 

“The Wage and Hour Division within the Department of Labor protects workers’ paychecks by cracking down on federal minimum wage violations.

 

“The division also helps make sure workers get the overtime pay they have earned. 

 

“With no increase in its budget since 2012, the number of people investigating these violations has declined.

 

“If the funding level is frozen again in 2017, the Department will be unable to conduct an estimated 1,600 investigations, leaving workers across the country with few options for collecting millions of dollars in wages owed them.

 

“And diminished oversight means that some unethical employers will be able to get away with denying workers the pay they’ve earned. 

 

“Updating workers’ rights also means expanding paid leave, eliminating gender pay disparity, and strengthening retirement security. 

 

“I appreciate the budget’s focus on these issues, as well as the Secretary Perez’s leadership in these areas.  

 

“It is important to remember the two-year budget agreement rolled back the automatic cuts and allowed us to restore key investments—but it didn’t go as far as many of us had hoped.

 

“That means, as it often does, that difficult choices will be unavoidable in 2017, they’ll just be tougher than last year.

 

“Even so, I believe our subcommittee can find a way to write a bipartisan bill once again, if we have an allocation that allows us to make the investments needed in worker training and other vital areas.

 

“I know Chairman Blunt would like to work on this bill in a bipartisan manner as well—and build on the progress we’ve made.

 

“So I look forward to working with you, Secretary Perez, and all of my colleagues here today, in the coming weeks and months.

 

“Thank you, and now I’ll turn it back over to the Chairman.”