Budget Blog

Yesterday , the Senate overwhelming passed, with a vote of 95-3, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill authored by Senator Murray and seven of her colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, from the House and the Senate.

The bill, which now heads to the House of Representatives for approval, would modernize and improve existing federal workforce development programs, help workers attain skills for 21st century jobs, and foster a modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete. Over 100 labor, business, and workforce development leaders and advocates have endorsed the legislation.

The legislation represents a compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18-3 in July of 2013.

A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here.

The statement of managers, including a section-by-section summary of the legislation, can be found here.

A summary of key improvements WIOA makes to current workforce development programs can be found here.

The text of the bipartisan, bicameral agreement can be found here.

The federal government makes and guarantees hundreds of billions of dollars in loans every year. These credit programs serve a wide variety of public policy purposes, ranging from making homeownership or attending college more affordable to making it easier for small businesses to expand. In recent years, a debate has emerged over the best way to account for these loans and loan guarantees, with some critics contending that official estimates understate the true costs. And while the critics have some valuable points to make about the broader societal costs and benefits of federal credit programs, the simple fact is that the current method of accounting is already extremely accurate and the proposed change would deliberately yield incorrect estimates of actual fiscal costs. This shortcoming of the proposed change in accounting is unavoidable and should give enormous pause to any advocate of fiscal responsibility.
Senator Murray has worked throughout her career to expand economic opportunity for working families through policies like raising the minimum wage, expanding access to affordable child care, making it easier to pay down student loans, helping women gain financial security for retirement, and enacting the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Read more of what Senator Murray has been working on recently to expand opportunity for working women and their families.

One reason for weakness in the labor market can be attributed to the lack of growth in the construction sector, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Prior to the Great Recession, the hours worked at jobs in the construction sector were seeing an upward trend, and the industry was booming.  However, during the recession, the industry was hit particularly hard, and hours worked fell far below pre-recession levels. The report, released last week, highlighted that while many sectors have recovered, the construction sector has not. The report concluded that, “If there is some slack in the labor market, it is likely attributable to the performance of the construction sector and related activities.”

The Department of Transportation (DOT) projects the Highway Trust Fund to reach critically low levels this summer. If that happens, DOT would delay reimbursements to states, which pay for construction projects across the country. If states aren’t able to enter into new construction contracts because of a Highway Trust Fund crisis, as many as 700,000 jobs could be at risk, according to DOT estimates. Senator Murray has called on Congress to avoid a crisis that would jeopardize thousands of important transportation projects, and have a serious impact on construction jobs.  In a recent speech on the Senate floor, Murray said, “Allowing the Highway Trust Fund to reach critically low levels would be another blow to an industry that’s already seen more than its fair share of job loss and uncertainty.”

Read more about how the Highway Trust Fund works here

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the status of the Highway Trust Fund. The report confirms that if lawmakers do not act, the Department of Transportation will have to delay reimbursements to states, which pay for the cost of construction.
Fifty-one years ago today President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. But while great strides have been made, that goal has yet to be realized.

Senator Murray has worked throughout her career to make ensure women are treated fairly and paid equally in the American workplace. She is fighting to increase economic opportunity for women and their families through policies like raising the minimum wage, expanding access to affordable child care, making it easier to pay down student loans, helping women gain financial security for retirement, and enacting the Paycheck Fairness Act.

On Wednesday, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing to consider the nomination of the Honorable Shaun Donovan to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Donovan was sworn in as the 15th United States Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on January 26, 2009, at a time when families across the country were being devastated by the foreclosure crisis.  Under his leadership HUD helped stabilize the housing market and fought to ensure that responsible families could remain in their homes. Donovan was also tasked with overseeing the administration’s response to Hurricane Sandy, and created comprehensive plans to guide long-term disaster recovery efforts.

Throughout his tenure as HUD Secretary, Donovan has been committed to making quality housing possible for every American and has worked to ensure that HUD provides access to opportunity to all by building sustainable and inclusive neighborhoods. Prior to serving in his position at HUD, Donovan was Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

Read more about Secretary Donovan here

Read Chairman Murray’s statement on Donovan’s nomination here

Federal funding for important investments in our surface transportation system primarily comes through the Highway Trust Fund. Unfortunately, revenue coming into the Highway Trust Fund has not kept pace with the overwhelming need for transportation infrastructure projects to repair bridges and ease congestion on our country’s clogged highways. The Highway Trust Fund could reach insolvency as soon as this summer, according to recent projections from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

A shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund would hurt workers who depend on jobs on highway construction and public transportation projects, and it would add to the uncertainty that states and local governments already feel in planning for future transportation projects. Both Democrats and Republicans have put forward proposals to resolve a Highway Trust Fund crisis, including plans to use revenues from corporate and international tax reform, to address the shortfall. At this critical stage, with less than three months before a crisis, failing to act in Congress to shore up the Highway Trust Fund would be damaging for families, businesses, and the economy.
Getting a college degree is a worthwhile investment, and studies have found that a post-secondary degree or credential is essential in climbing the economic ladder. According to the Census, lifetime earnings for workers with a college degree are about $1 million higher than those with only a high school diploma. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that college graduates have significantly lower unemployment rates than those who either did not complete college or never attended in the first place. And more and more, a college degree will be critical for America’s economic competitiveness. The Center on Education and Workforce at Georgetown University estimates that by the end of the decade, nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require at least some college education.