Budget Blog

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.

On Wednesday, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the Impact of Student Loan Debt on Borrowers and the Economy with witnesses Rohit Chopra and Brittany Jones.

Rohit Chopra is the Student Loan Ombudsman and Assistant Director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Since his appointment as a CFPB ombudsman in October 2011, Chopra has worked to help borrowers facing the burden of student loans and publicize the financial issues facing students today. He has spoken to the Congressional Forum on Student Loans and provided testimony to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Prior to joining the CFPB, Chopra worked on consumer credit markets and student debt issues at the McKinsey Global Institute. He holds a B.A. from Harvard College and an M.B.A. in Finance and Public Policy from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Read articles by Rohit Chopra here.

Brittany Jones is a 2011 college graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University. To fund her college degree, she relied on a mix of Pell grants and student loans. By the time Jones had graduated with her bachelor’s degree, she had borrowed more than $70,000. To pay down these loans, she has worked as an hourly employee at an early education center, in addition to working part-time as a fitness instructor and taking additional college classes to improve her career options and be competitive in a challenging employment environment.

Last Tuesday, as required by law, the Obama Administration released the third National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive, peer-reviewed scientific compilation on both the present and future impacts of climate change in the United States. This report paints a stark picture of the climate impacts already occurring across the country, and of future impacts if climate change is left unaddressed.

Climate change impacts reverberate across the economy, putting the nation’s transportation infrastructure, public health systems, agricultural producers, and critical energy and water infrastructure to the test. More frequent and intense floods threaten to wash away roads, more extreme hurricanes will test levees, and extended drought will destroy crops, reduce the nation’s food supply and increase costs.

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.