This week, House Republicans unveiled a $3.5 trillion spending plan that proposes to reduce the national debt. The proposal, which aims to balance the budget by 2040, relies heavily on significant spending reductions for a number of popular social programs including Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.
Education and job training programs would also be consolidated. The proposal asserts that spending on Pell Grants could be reduced by targeting Pell’s student aid at the neediest students.
The plan was unveiled on Tuesday, March 20, and passed by the House Budget Committee on Wednesday by a 19-18 vote. Two Republicans crossed party-lines to vote against the proposal. Next, the plan will be considered on the House floor, where it is expected to gain strong support from most Republicans and fierce opposition from Democrats.
The proposal has little chance of passing in the Senate where Democrats hold the majority. Meanwhile, the Senate is developing FY 2013 spending bills that will provide a total of $1.047 billion in discretionary spending as agreed to in the Budget Control Act, which passed Congress last year. However the new House plan proposes to spend $19 billion less than the Senate version, setting up an end-of-the-year budget showdown that will most likely be resolved after the November election.
Developments on the Workforce Front
As noted earlier, the House-proposed budget proposes to consolidate education and job training programs, most likely as proposed in legislation (H.R. 3610) introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx last year. Combined with two other bills, H.R. 2295 and H.R. 3611, the Foxx bill is expected to be part of the framework for a Republican bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.
This week, House Democrats countered the Foxx bill by introducing a Democratic alternative, HR 4227. Bill sponsors assert that the Democratic alternative reflects three core principles:
- Streamlining and improving workforce investment system programs
- Strengthening workforce investment system accountability
- Promoting innovation and best practices within the workforce investment system
The workforce system, which has often been a recent target for spending cuts, will need to make a delicate line to preserve funding for employment services, job training and education programs the help people to find jobs and advance in careers, while advocating for needed systemic improvements that could be achieved through WIA reauthorization.
Should funding be lost for the workforce system of today, it will be very difficult to find new funding for the workforce system of tomorrow.