FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
CONTACT: Ian Koski at 202-224-5042
Senator Coons, budget conference committee complete first day of negotiations
Committee has been tasked with reconciling budgets approved by House and Senate
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) told members of the budget conference committee on Wednesday that economic growth should be the committee’s top priority, and urged the committee to replace the sequester with more responsible spending decisions.
“Economic growth has to be our North Star,” Senator Coons told the conferees, reminding them that every 1 percent of increase in our nation’s GDP creates about 1 million new jobs. “The national unemployment rate, as several senators and congressmen have said, is far too high; we’ve got 32,000 unemployed in Delaware and more than 11 million nationwide, and we’ve got record rates of poverty and of income inequality that are serious challenges.”
“My hope is that as we work together in this conference committee, we will find ways to end the disagreements and differences that have recently shut the government and instead focus on the things that we all agree we want to do together, which are to grow the economy, create good jobs, and reduce our deficits,” Senator Coons said. “I will agree, though, that we can’t simply grow our way out of our problems – we do have to address the drivers of our debt and deficits. We have to continue to reduce our deficits, which we have cut in half over the last four years. If we don’t, interest expense is a very real threat for crowding out both public and private investment in education, in R&D, and in infrastructure.”
Senator Coons is one of 29 members of the conference committee appointed by leaders of the House and Senate to reconcile the two chambers’ respective budgets. If the conference committee is able to negotiate and approve a budget by December 13, the House and Senate appropriations committees will attempt to move forward on a spending bill for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014.
Senator Coons is a member of both the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The next meeting of the full conference committee will be on November 13, but members are expected to meet in smaller groups to make progress before then.
His full statement at Wednesday’s meeting is below:
Thank you Chairman Ryan. I would like to thank Chairman Ryan and Chairman Murray for convening this budget committee conference and I can agree with Senator Johnson that we both worked in manufacturing, and that we both think that getting back to focusing on economic growth and jobs is a top priority. My hope is that as we work together in this conference committee, we will find ways to end the disagreements and differences that have recently shut the government and instead focus on the things that we all agree we want to do together, which are to grow the economy, create good jobs, and reduce our deficits. Now, the challenges facing us are well-documented and widely known, but if we’re going to get back to working together on creating jobs and reducing our deficits we have to start by figuring out what we do really agree on so we can find common ground and move forward; that’s the way Delawareans ask me everyday to work here in Washington.
So I would just like to just briefly outline what I think are the priorities that actually unite us. We can safely agree that we do all want to grow the economy, to grow good jobs, and grow federal revenue. After the collapse of 2008-2009 we have had 40 straight quarters of consecutive job growth, but our recovery is still fragile. The national unemployment rate, as several senators and congressmen have said, is far too high; we’ve got 32,000 unemployed in Delaware and more than 11 million nationwide, and we’ve got record rates of poverty and of income inequality that are serious challenges. In all of this, economic growth has to be our North Star. As many of us know, if we grow our economy just one percentage point more, we would not just reduce our deficit more than 500 billion over a decade, but we would grow 1 million new jobs.
So what are the things we could agree on to grow the economy? First, replacing the harmful effects of the sequester. The CBO estimates that the sequester will cost 750,000 jobs this year and even more damage next year. Second, invest in a skilled workforce, work in partnership with the private sector to deal with significant workforce skills deficits – there were 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs this past year – we need to work together to train our workers. Third, research and development, as several members have said, is absolutely critical to our long-term competitiveness. R&D generates new products, new ideas, and in some cases whole new industries, fueling our ability to compete successfully with other countries. Finally, we have a crumbling infrastructure – as we all know there are far too many highways, ports, tunnels, and bridges that are critical to economic growth, but are well below international standards. We have to invest in order to grow. But frankly, most importantly, we can all agree that coming to some agreement in a reasonable timeframe is probably the most important thing this committee can do to help grow our economy. And doing it on a timeline that then allows the Appropriations Committee to then deliver a result without shutting down the government or putting it at any risk is about the best thing we can do.
I will agree, though, that we can’t simply grow our way out of our problems. We do have to address the drivers of our debt and deficits. We have to continue to reduce our deficits, which we have cut in half over the last four years. If we don’t, interest expense is a very real threat for crowding out both public and private investment in education, in R&D, and in infrastructure. Over the last three years we have made real strides in reducing our deficit; we have saved more than 2.5 trillion dollars. Yet that has been really unbalanced, about 70 percent of it has been from spending cuts, while only about 30 percent from revenue. We need to do more, but I believe we have to do it in a balanced way. We have heard from several senators about the need to modernize the tax code and about the need to move towards real tax reform. And while this committee can’t get all of that done, we can move in that direction in a substantial way. Making a modest cut of only 5 percent of the trillion dollars a year we spend through the tax code would make a huge dent in our deficits.
Last, we do have to continue to make some cuts in our direct spending, although I will note that is the area that has taken the hardest hit and I will insist on doing so in a way that places a circle of protection around the most vulnerable in our country, and that honors our promises to our seniors, to our veterans, and to those about to retire, to protect them from harmful cuts.
Chairman Ryan, Chairman Murray, I am glad we have come together. I think we need to focus, not on areas of disagreement, but on priorities we all share: focusing on growth, replacing sequester, reducing the deficit, and ensuring our long term prosperity. Thank you.