Budget Blog

Tomorrow, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on Expanding Economic Opportunity for Women and Families with witnesses Dr. Heather Boushey and AnnMarie Duchon.

Dr. Heather Boushey is the Executive Director and Chief Economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her research focuses on economic inequality and public policy, specifically employment, social policy, and family economic well-being. The New York Times has called Boushey one of the “most vibrant voices in the field” and she testifies often before Congress on economic policy issues.

Boushey previously served as an economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the Economic Policy Institute. She received her Ph.D. in economics from the New School for Social Research and her B.A. from Hampshire College.

Read articles and testimony from Dr. Boushey here.

AnnMarie Duchon is the Associate Director of Accommodation Services at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. For years, Duchon was aware of a wage gap between herself and a male coworker who held the same title and a nearly identical background. Even after pointing out the disparity and advocating for increased wages, Duchon was denied pay equity for several years. Duchon is a member of MomsRising, an on-the-ground and online grassroots organization of more than a million people working to achieve economic security for all moms, women, and families in the United States.

Tomorrow, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the U.S. Economic and Fiscal Outlook with Dr. Janet L. Yellen, Chairof the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Last week, the Supreme Court upheld a major air pollution rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), known as the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).  CSAPR was designed to protect downwind states from the health impacts that come from air pollution that is generated in upwind states and is then blown across state borders.  The health benefits from this rule are tremendous:  up to 34,000 lives saved annually, as well as 15,000 avoided heart attacks, and 19,000 avoided hospital and ER visits.  In total, 240 million Americans will be breathing cleaner, healthier air because of the Court’s decision, according to EPA estimates.

Cleaning up the air is good for people’s health and it’s also good for the federal budget. 

Each year, air pollution causes tens of thousands of serious cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, including many of the most expensive and life-threatening.  Because the federal government pays for roughly 25 percent of all health care in the country, reducing pollution-related illnesses will yield billions in savings on federal health spending, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  One study that looked at these savings estimated that over the next decade, CSAPR alone would save over $20 billion in pollution-related health care costs to Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs.

State budgets would also see benefits through reductions in their portion of Medicaid payments, and consumers would see reductions in their out-of-pocket health care spending by nearly $5 billion.

Protecting air quality improves the health of families and communities, while also saving taxpayer money.

From 2008 to 2012, average student debt for school loans increased by six percent each year.

At the same time, under tight budget constraints during the economic downturn, states across the country have cut back on their investments in higher education, according to analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Average state spending on higher education is now 23 percent less per student than before the recession.

To respond to these funding cuts, public colleges and universities have raised tuition and cut back on programs and staff, the report found.
This week, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center released an analysis of Chairman Patty Murray’s (D-WA) 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act, and found that the legislation would help more than 20 million working households climb the economic ladder.

Chairman Murray designed the legislation to help struggling workers and families keep more of what they earn, and in their analysis, the Tax Policy Center found that about 42 percent of the benefits of the legislation would go to taxpayers in the lowest income quintile.

More than 63,000 bridges in the United States are deficient, according to analysis of federal data from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and as reported this morning in the Washington Post.

Drivers cross these bridges more than 250 million times every day, according to the report.

Funding for repairing these bridges relies heavily on the Highway Trust Fund. Unfortunately, that federal funding is on a course to reach critically low levels as soon as this summer. Without action from Congress, many states could put projects to repair roads and bridges on hold, and in fact, many already have.

Senator Murray has called on Congress to replenish the Highway Trust Fund to avoid losing critical investments in our roads and bridges, especially because those projects help drivers, create jobs, and ensure businesses can move their goods quickly and efficiently.

“Congress has a choice to make in the coming months: either invest in our nation’s infrastructure to make vital repairs to roads and bridges across the country, or continue to let the nation’s infrastructure deteriorate further, which would hurt workers, drivers, and the economy,” Senator Murray said today. “I am calling on all of my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to avoid this looming crisis and come together as soon as possible to invest in infrastructure and in the safety of our nation’s roads and bridges.”

The Post article points out that deficient bridges don’t just affect drivers; they can also hurt consumers. When a bridge deteriorates, it can no longer support the weight it once did. When weight restrictions become necessary, trucks that carry products and goods must find alternative, often more indirect, routes that add time to deliveries. Those delays add extra costs that can trickle down to the consumer.

Bridges deemed deficient do not mean that the bridges are in immediate danger of collapsing. The distinction means the bridge needs to be monitored or repaired. 

Apr 24 2014

"Will Republicans Back Early Education?"

Op-Ed by Chairman Patty Murray

Chairman Murray wrote an editorial encouraging bipartisanship support for expanding quality early learning programs based on her experience as a preschool teacher, as well as the academic research that shows long-term benefits for children who attend preschool. Chairman Murray also cited the widespread support for early learning programs from sheriffs and law enforcement officials, business groups, military leaders, and state lawmakers.
In Washington state today, Chairman Murray spoke to a crowd at the Pacific Science Center, emphasizing the need to better prepare students for jobs of the 21st century by focusing on education in science, technology, engineering, and math, better known as STEM.

“Our nation will need highly-skilled STEM workers for jobs of the future,” Chairman Murray said. “We’ll need it so U.S. companies can stay on the cutting edge, so that we can attract the best talent to innovate and start new businesses right here in America, and so that all workers can make a living wage.”