By Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, NCLR
After years of federal budget policies that have slashed critical programs in order to reduce government spending, NCLR welcomes a much needed change in priorities demonstrated in President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2015. The budget comes days after the announcement by the Treasury Department announced that the federal deficit is at its lowest point since 2008.
According to a 2013 national poll conducted by NCLR and Latino Decisions, an overwhelming 96 percent of Latino voters support a budget that invests in infrastructure and education to stimulate the economy. The president’s budget calls for $56 billion in new discretionary funding for defense and non-defense priorities, offering significant wiggle room to address Latino voter priorities. Specifically, this “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” would provide grants for preschool to two-thirds of the states by 2015 and prioritize job training resources for people with barriers to employment. Other economy-boosting highlights in the budget include:
- An increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour
- Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers who have no children
- $15 billion for Project Rebuild, which would put people back to work rebuilding neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.
- A $15 million boost to the HUD housing counseling program
Another top Latino issue included in the president’s budget is comprehensive immigration reform. The budget uses the Senate-passed bill to calculate, which, if enacted, would reduce the federal budget deficit by $158 billion.
The president’s budget will not be debated in Congress but it communicates the Obama Administration’s priorities for priorities for the year ahead and in doing so, lays out a vision that contrasts with the bipartisan two-year deal that Congress enacted in December. While the Congressional budget deal marked a rare bipartisan compromise and softened the blow of sequestration in 2014 and 2015, it doesn’t make up for multiple rounds of cuts in recent years and sets up the country to reopen those wounds before they are healed before 2016. The American economy and Latino families are still hurting because of the deal’s strict caps on critical discretionary and nondiscretionary spending. (We should note that the president’s budget adheres to these caps by offsetting the new proposed spending through efficiencies in spending on Medicare and other federal health programs).
It doesn’t have to be this way forever. The midterm elections of 2014 are just around the corner and Latinos are poised to make their priorities known in the ballot box. Regardless of political party affiliation, Hispanic voters report that they will consider the federal budget as they decide who to vote for; the majority intends to support candidates in 2014 that stop cuts to programs for children and youth in and address job creation and economic growth needs. Members of Congress would do well to support aspects of the president’s budget that align with Latino voter priorities.