The President Urges Congress to Pass a Budget that Addresses America's Priorities
Today, in an effort to find bipartisan common ground on tax cuts for middle-class families, President Clinton will send an offer to Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Lott outlining a consensus package of tax relief legislation that he would sign this year. He will also call on Congress to finish its job by addressing America's priorities. Nearly a month after the end of the fiscal year, Congress still has not finished a budget. The fourth deadline extension expires at midnight tonight. Today, President Clinton will reiterate that he will grant additional extensions one day at a time to ensure that Congress stays in town and completes its business. Before adjourning, Congress should pass tax cuts for middle-class families, invest in key priorities like education, provide health care coverage and long-term care assistance for more working families, and adopt legislation to address America's key priorities, while maintaining a fiscally responsible budget that pays down the debt.
IN ADDITION TO MAKING THE OFFER TO BUILD COMMON GROUND ON TAX CUTS FOR MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILIES, PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL CALL ON CONGRESS TO FINISH THE BUDGET NOW AND INVEST IN EDUCATION. In February, President Clinton and Vice President Gore sent Congress a balanced and fiscally responsible budget that makes investments in key education initiatives. Nearly one month past the end of the fiscal year, Congress still has not completed a budget. The budget Congress has passed so far:
- Fails to create new school modernization bonds. The Republican plan would not dedicate funds to helping communities build and modernize up to 6,000 schools, while the President's budget would support $25 billion in bonds for that effort, including tribal bonds for schools serving Native Americans.
- Fails to guarantee funding for urgent school repairs. President Clinton's plan includes $1.3 billion to help school districts repair roofs, heating and cooling systems, and electrical wiring. The Republican plan would not dedicate funds to these purposes, and could deny much-needed renovations up to 5,000 schools.
- Fails to expand after-school opportunities. The Republican plan is $400 million less than the President's budget and denies funding for more than 3,000 centers that would provide after-school and summer programs to more than one million children.
- Fails to secure funding for class-size reduction. The Republican plan fails to dedicate $1.75 billion to help school districts hire 20,000 new teachers and support the 29,000 teachers already hired under the Class-Size Reduction initiative, potentially denying smaller classes to 2.9 million children.
- Fails to provide sufficient resources to improve Teacher quality. The Republican plan, which provides $527 million less than the President's teacher quality proposal, fails to fully support teacher professional development, recruitment, and rewards, and does not help ensure a qualified teacher in every classroom.
- Fails to help turn around failing schools. The Republican plan denies funding for the Accountability Fund—$250 million below the President's budget—denying resources to states and school districts to turn around low-performing schools and hold them accountable for results.
FOCUSING ON AMERICA'S PRIORITIES. President Clinton will call on Congress to do their job by addressing America's priorities before returning to their districts to campaign for re-election. Specifically, Congress should:
- Provide an affordable prescription drug benefit option for all Medicare beneficiaries. Three out of five Medicare beneficiaries have inadequate prescription drug coverage or none at all. In the context of broader reform that ensures that Medicare revenues are only used for Medicare, the President has proposed a voluntary, affordable, Medicare prescription drug benefit for all beneficiaries.
- Enact a meaningful Patient's Bill of Rights. The majority of the U.S. Senate supports a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights, similar to the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell plan. However, the Republican leadership continues to support an alternative that leaves over 135 million people without protections and doesn't assure that plans are held accountable when they make decisions that harm patients.
- Raising the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage by $1 over two years would help more than 10 million workers make ends meet. At a time when we are experiencing the longest economic expansion in history, the proposed $1 increase before Congress would merely return the real value of the minimum wage to the level it was in 1982. It would give full-time workers an annual raise of about $2,000 a year, enough money to pay for nearly 7 months of groceries or 5 months of rent. Approximately 33 percent of minimum-wage workers rely on their income to support children under 18;
- Pass hate crimes legislation. The President will urge Congress to send him meaningful hate crimes legislation this year. This legislation will allow federal prosecution of hate crimes based on gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
- Ensure equal pay for women. The President's $45 million for his Equal Pay Initiative which will provide training to employers on wage discrimination; train women in nontraditional jobs; provide for apprenticeships; and support industry partnerships. Within this initiative, the National Science Foundation will invest $20 million to remove barriers to career advancement for women scientists and engineers. The President will also urge Congress to pass the "The Paycheck Fairness Act," introduced by Senator Tom Daschle and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, to strengthen laws prohibiting wage discrimination.
- Insist on fairness for immigrants. The President will reiterate his commitment to ensuring fairness for immigrants who have been in this country for years, working hard and paying taxes, by enacting the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act (LIFA) this year and restoring critical nutrition assistance and health benefits for legal immigrants.
- Protect our nation's youth and hold tobacco companies accountable. The President will call on Congress to provide the funds necessary to support the Department of Justice's tobacco litigation so we can hold the tobacco companies accountable for the harm they've caused and give the American people their day in court.