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WORKFORCE: Murray Floor Speech on Reauthorization of Workforce Investment Act

Jul 30 2013

“A rare example of true bipartisan legislating.” Co-sponsors: Murray, Isakson, Harkin, Alexander

WIA has been due for reauthorization since 2003, HELP Committee expected to pass historic bill tomorrow

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor on the bipartisan legislation under consideration in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to reauthorize the historic Workforce Investment Act (WIA).  Originally passed in the late 1990’s, WIA has been due for reauthorization since 2003.  The current legislation, which is expected to pass through the committee tomorrow, is co-sponsored by Senators Murray, Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). 

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

“Madam President, over the past several weeks and months, we’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Senate debating everything from the federal budget to separate spending bills.

“And throughout those debates, member of both parties agree: It’s absolutely crucial that we’re working to write laws and policies that will put Americans back to work, help businesses grow and invest, and position our economy to compete and win in the 21st century.

“Now, we’ve had plenty of disagreement on how to achieve those goals, but as our nation recovers from the recession, our first priority has to be getting hard working Americans back on the job.

“So I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss the tremendous progress that we’ve made in the HELP Committee to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act and do just that: put Americans back to work.

“But Madam President, before I get to the importance of the bill itself, I want to take some time to discuss the bipartisan process that we’ve had at the committee level to move this forward.

“From the beginning of this process, I’ve worked very closely with my Republican co-sponsor, Senator Isakson and though we represent very different states – with different industries and different issues – we’ve each remained committed to writing a bill that works for all American businesses and workers.

“This process hasn’t been about scoring political points or pitting interests against each other. 

“It’s been a rare example of true bipartisan legislating, and I want to thank my friend, Senator Isakson, again for his hard work throughout this process.

“I’d also like to thank our committee Chairman and Ranking Member, Senators Harkin and Alexander, who have each worked extensively on this legislation and signed on as co-sponsors, as well.

“Madam President, it’s now been 15 years since we first passed the Workforce Investment Act, or WIA, but perhaps more importantly, it’s been a full decade since the legislation was due to be reauthorized.

“So Madam President, this law – which was first written in the late 1990’s – was designed to be changed and updated in 2003.

“And since then – our country and our economy have changed quite a bit.

“In the late 1990’s, the internet was changing the way we do business and driving our economy.

“The housing sector was as strong as ever.

“Unfortunately, both of those industries went bust.

“But, back then we in Congress were willing to take the long view and make meaningful commitments to and investments in our workforce development systems.

“So in 1998 we wrote and passed the Workforce Investment Act to help workers, educators, and businesses respond to an economy that was changing faster than ever before.

“Lately, we haven’t done much of that, but I’m very optimistic that by improving and reauthorizing WIA, we can get back on track.

“After all, this is the very law that was written to help us respond to a changing economy and provide the framework for our nation’s workforce development system.

“But it’s still written to address the issues we faced more than ten years ago.

“So Madam President, working with Senators from both sides of the aisle and the business, labor, and education communities, we’re bringing to our committee tomorrow a very strong reauthorization bill that brings WIA into the 21st Century.

“This bill puts more than a decade of experience and data to use by doing several things.

“It requires a single, unified workforce plan in each state and replaces overlap and confusion between separate state agencies.

“It recognizes that we need better data and analysis to understand which workforce programs are working well, what makes them work well, and how to improve them.

“And just as importantly, which programs are underperforming, why, and how to fix them.

“And it makes changes to align workforce systems with regional economic development and labor markets.

“This bill is also focused on using real-world data to measure the returns we get on workforce investments.

“And Madam President, getting good return on the federal dollars we invest is exactly what Americans are demanding.

“So while we’re making important changes to the existing version of WIA, I want to finish my remarks today with an example the incredible success this law has already had in helping our economy.

“Last year, the WIA adult and dislocated worker programs produced some really remarkable statistics:

“Over one million adults and dislocated workers were placed in jobs.

“Those workers earned more than $12 billion over just the first six months of their employment.

“In this same period, WIA funds spent on those programs came to roughly $2 billion.

“Let me say that again: In just six months, an investment of $2 billion yielded a return of more than $12 billion. 

“So Madam President, the investments we make through WIA programs are having an incredible impact on our economy, but we can do even more.

“That’s why so many organizations across the country have called for a modernized, 21st Century version of the Workforce Investment Act.

“Those organizations include: The National Business Roundtable, The National Metropolitan Business Alliance, labor and education leaders, and The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce in my home state of Washington.

“So Madam President, tomorrow, we will begin marking up our reauthorization bill in the committee, and I look forward to continue working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle…

“In a time when bipartisan legislation has become difficult to achieve, I hope we can set an example of what we’re still capable of doing together to strengthen our country and our economy.

“Thank you Madam President I yield the floor.”