Cicilline Urges House Budget Committee to Support Education, Small Business, and Middle Class

Mar 8, 2012 Issues: Education

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) stressed the importance of a comprehensive plan to put the American economy back on the right track in his testimony before the House Committee on the Budget today.  Cicilline emphasized robust funding for education, small businesses, and programs that will support a thriving middle class. Cicilline’s testimony, as prepared for delivery, is embedded below:

David N. Cicilline
Testimony to House Committee on the Budget
March 8, 2012

Thank you Chairman Ryan, Ranking Member Van Hollen, and members of the Budget Committee.

As of this past January, the unemployment rate in Rhode Island stood at an unacceptably high 10.9 percent. That means more than 61,000 men and women in my state are without work. As all of you know so well, the federal budget is not just a series of estimates, revenues, and expenditures. The budget is a powerful indication of our priorities as a nation. The work that we will undertake in the coming months is a reflection of our ability to chart a course to prosperity in our states and nation.

Charting this course requires bipartisan collaboration and focusing resources on initiatives that will generate growth in employment, strengthen our small business job creators, and equip more Americans – from cradle to career, college, and beyond – with the education, skills, and training they need to compete.

I would like to take this opportunity to call attention to three priorities that I believe warrant serious consideration in Fiscal Year 2013.

First, support for education is our best investment in the future and represents perhaps the single most powerful tool in alleviating poverty and equipping Americans with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. Our country’s education advantage, once the marvel of the industrialized world, continues to lag. This reality, if not addressed, will leave our economy behind as our rivals speed ahead.

As one report from Georgetown University indicated, of the nearly 47 million job openings estimated between 2008 and 2018, more than 29 million will require at least some postsecondary education. Far too often when I visit companies like Teknor Apex in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, I hear owners telling me they have jobs to fill, and plans to expand, but they face difficulties finding people with the right skill set. This cannot continue.

The President’s FY 2013 budget reflects the necessary focus on the cradle to college and career support my state, and our country, needs to contend with our global competitors. This includes maintaining critical funding for Title I and IDEA programs; increasing the maximum Pell Grant; extending the current 3.4% interest rate on subsidized student loans; and providing a robust investment in a Community College to Career Fund, which will support partnerships between community colleges and businesses in high growth industries to educate, train, and place more Rhode Islanders and Americans in well-paying jobs.

Second, in addition to a pipeline of well-trained employees, our nation’s economic recovery depends on the strength and vitality of our small businesses. In Rhode Island, small businesses with fewer than 20 employees accounted for approximately 90 percent of all private sector employers in 2010. Small businesses are critically important for job growth, having accounted for between 65 to 90 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years.

The President’s FY 2013 budget proposes important investments to advance and sustain our small businesses, including through the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the International Trade Administration, loan guarantees from the Small Business Administration, and the creation of an Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia and Regional Innovation Strategies Program. Together, these and other vital proposals will help our small businesses and manufacturers acquire much-needed capital, expand access to markets abroad for their goods and services, and accelerate innovation, job creation, and the expansion of high-growth industry clusters.

Finally, as I have heard time and again during my Main Street Small Business Tours and Community Suppers, a sustained economic recovery requires a thriving middle class. These are the men and women who consume the goods and services being produced by businesses. They are our firefighters, teachers, police officers, and building trades men and women. They are our veterans returning from combat. They are our young people, adult-learners, and older workers in need of enhanced skills to compete.

They are people like Estella Londono from North Providence, Rhode Island, who, after being laid off from work relied on unemployment benefits to sustain her family while she participated in job training – improving her skills and enhancing her ability to find a job. We must make certain the Fiscal Year 2013 budget supports Americans like Estella and provides for a thriving middle class. Now is the time to put men and women to work on vital infrastructure projects – fixing our roads, bridges, schools and water systems; help keep college affordable so graduates are not saddled with a lifetime of debt; ensure our returning veterans have access to health care and job training; keep our promise to seniors by protecting Medicare and Social Security; and pull struggling homeowners above water, returning vitality to our neighborhoods and housing market.

These are the priorities I was sent to Congress to defend, and they will require a serious conversation about which investments are working for America and will help us create jobs, innovate for the future, and remain competitive in the global economy, and which will not.

I look forward to the months ahead as we work, in a bipartisan fashion, to chart a course to prosperity. I thank the Committee for their time today and their thoughtful deliberation.