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On March 12, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced his Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget resolution, which sets overall federal spending levels for House appropriators as they begin working on appropriations bills later this spring. As with previous proposals, the Ryan budget recommends imposing new time limits and work requirements on recipients of federal means-tested benefits, while at the same time proposing billions of dollars in cuts to the federal education and workforce programs that would help those individuals achieve self-sufficiency.
The Ryan budget also features the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Learning (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803), legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which was introduced by Rep. Foxx (R-NC), Rep. McKeon (R-CA), and Rep. Heck (R-NV) last month. H.R. 803 would consolidate 35 federally-supported education and training programs – including WIA formula and national funds, SNAP E&T, Wagner-Peyser Employment Services, and others – into a single, opaque $6 billion fund. Members of Congress, including Chairman Ryan, have cited consolidation proposals like that proposed under H.R. 803 as a rationale for continuing our nation’s disinvestment in the skills of its workforce. NSC recently wrote to the House Education & Workforce Committee expressing opposition to key parts of H.R. 803.
The budget “blueprint” released by the committee in conjunction with the budget resolution also makes clear that the budget would make cuts to Pell grants and other student aid programs. According to the blueprint, the budget resolution would cap the maximum Pell award at its current amount, and finance the program with discretionary dollars only, instead of a combination of mandatory and discretionary funds, as is the current practice. The Ryan budget also hints at new oversight and accountability measures for job training programs and Pell, recommending that these programs track “the type of training provided, the cost per trainee, employment after training, and whether or not the trainee secures a job in his or her preferred field.”
In addition to these workforce proposals, the Ryan budget also recommends major policy changes to key programs serving low-income individuals. For example, the budget proposes converting SNAP into a block grant to states, and making aid contingent on participation in work or job training—while simultaneously calling for cuts to those same job training programs.
The House Budget committee will “mark-up” the budget resolution on March 13 and will likely come up for a vote in the House next week. The resolution will not be adopted by the Democrat-controlled Senate. Senate Budget chair Patty Murray (D-WA) is set to release her budget resolution on March 13 and will mark-up the resolution on March 13 and 14.
National Skills Coalition strongly opposes efforts to further reduce federal investments in job training and postsecondary education, and we look forward to working with our national, state, and local partners to help policymakers understand the importance of these programs for jobseekers, workers, youth, and businesses. We will continue to update the field on federal budget and appropriations developments that impact education and training as new information becomes available.