Today’s passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 marks a positive step forward for the Nation and our economy. This bipartisan legislation provides funding for investments in areas like education, infrastructure, and innovation – investments that will help grow our economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. It supports our national security by providing needed relief for the Defense Department from the untenable sequestration cuts that were undermining military readiness. It ensures the continuation of critical services the American people depend on. And it brings us closer to returning the budget process to regular order.
Passage of this legislation ensures that we have appropriations for every agency in the Federal government, enabling them to more efficiently and effectively serve the American people and bringing greater certainty to businesses and communities across the country. Key areas that are positively impacted by the legislation include:
- Early Learning: The legislation fully restores funding cuts to the Head Start program that were caused by sequestration and provides dedicated resources to improve early education by supporting State efforts to expand preschool for 4-year olds. And the legislation provides additional funding to expand access to high-quality early education for tens of thousands of additional children through the launch of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.
- Health Care: The legislation helps ensure we can continue to move forward in providing quality, affordable health care for millions of Americans through implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act improves many aspects of the Nation's health care system, such as preventing those with pre-existing conditions from being dropped or denied coverage. It also provides tax credits to help pay for coverage and slows the growth of health care costs.
- College Affordability: Funding is included to help bolster American competitiveness by supporting the development of innovative strategies to make college more affordable and help more students graduate on time with high-quality degrees that lead to good jobs.
- Gun Safety: The legislation supports the Administration’s efforts to strengthen school safety and mental health initiatives to help protect our children from gun violence and provide those suffering from mental illness with the treatment they need. It also includes funding for the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, which will fund pilot sites for school districts to develop and implement innovative approaches to school safety.
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission: The legislation supports efforts to help create a more stable and responsible financial system. For example, funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a key Administration priority critical to the continued implementation of Wall Street Reform, is increased for the first time since 2011.
- Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy: Resources are provided for critical Research & Development (R&D) activities in the pursuit of clean energy and energy efficiency technology at lower costs and to advance U.S. competitiveness.
- Infrastructure Investment: Communities across the country will benefit from increased Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which support infrastructure connecting people to new jobs and opportunities.
- Research and Development: The Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, NASA and other key science agencies are provided resources for critical investments in health research, basic science, and innovation.
This legislation represents an important compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But there is much more we can and should be doing to strengthen the economy and support working class families. Most immediately, we should restore unemployment insurance for more than one million Americans fighting to find a job.
Since the President took office in 2009, we have experienced the fastest decline in the deficit over a sustained period since the end of WWII. We need to continue this progress, but our top priority right now needs to be on efforts that will continue to grow the economy, create more jobs, and ensure that everyone benefits from a prosperous American economy.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget