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- Skills Mismatch
On April 1, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his fiscal year (FY) 2015 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 the poor achieve self-sufficiency, and help the unemployed return to work, possibly in new careers.
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 would consolidate 35 federally-supported education and training programs—including WIA formula and national funds, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training (E&T), Wagner-Peyser Employment Services, and others—into a single fund. Ryan has cited consolidation proposals like that proposed under H.R. 803 as a rationale for cutting federal skills investments. National Skills Coalition opposes the SKILLS Act.
The budget resolution also makes clear that the budget would make cuts to Pell grants and other student aid programs. The 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. It would also eliminate Pell aid for working students who are supporting themselves while going to school less than half-time—an ironic stance for a member of Congress that continually talks about the intrinsic value of work.
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 resolution calls for historic disinvestments in non-defense discretionary programs—including occupational training programs—over the next decade. By 2024, nondefense discretionary funds will be at historic lows. This comes at the expense of critical discretionary programs and would create unprecedented new deficits in critical areas such as medical and scientific research, infrastructure, and a skilled workforce.
The House Budget committee will “mark-up” the budget resolution on April 2. Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray has already announced that her committee will not be releasing a FY 2015 budget resolution because the caps for FY 2015 have been set by the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA). The Senate will not adopt Chairman Ryan’s budget.
National Skills Coalition strongly opposes efforts to further reduce federal investments in job training and postsecondary education. This proposal’s disinvestment in America’s workforce will not solve the skills gap that impacts workers, employers and our economy. In fact, it will make it more difficult for those most in need to get the skills to obtain a job or advance at work.
America’s workers need lawmakers to come together to invest in a federal workforce system that is effective, accountable, and innovative. Lawmakers should agree upon a budget that enhances the effectiveness of our workforce system to meet the skill needs of all U.S. workers and businesses; strengthens accountability; and promotes innovation by building on the lessons learned and best practices developed over the past 15 years by the workforce field.
Unfortunately, the House budget proposal fails to do that. National Skills Coalition hopes that members of Congress will work together to advance a bipartisan budget that addresses our nation’s skills gap and invests in America’s workers.
We will continue to update the field on federal budget and appropriations developments that impact education and training as new information becomes available.