Obama Budget Sings From Our Hymn book

Posted by: Gordon on 3/7/2014

2015 budget iconAt Gamaliel and our campaign arm, Transportation Equity Network, we have found much to praise in President Obama’s 2015 budget request.

Realistically there is a long way to go to get these ideas enshrined in law but if nothing else at least the highest officials in the land are talking about the right things. Here is our take on the highlights:

More Workforce Development Investment

The proposal includes a $400 million workforce development program over four years to support and enhance the size, diversity, and skills of construction workforce through partnerships with the U.S. Department of Labor, states, and other key stakeholders.

One thing we wish the budget request contained was continued funding for the program that supports Women Apprenticeship in Nontraditional Occupations, WANTO. National Women's Law Center has already blogged about this, noting "Women account for just 8 percent of the 179,000 jobs added in the construction industry last year, despite comprising 13 percent of the industry in January 2013."

We continue to believe that greater participation in construction and trades work by women is part of the way forward to building a stronger economy, and to urge that federal contracting regulations get dusted off and updated for the first time since 1980.

Nonetheless, the budget proposal is a solid win that supports the sort of workforce development ordinances and community benefit agreements that Gamaliel affiliates have pushed for some years, and we believe this definitely responds to the needs identified by leaders across the country.

Improved Transit Funding and Access to Jobs and Education

The proposed budget would greatly expand existing transit programs that help to create ladders of opportunity for all populations. It includes $2.2 billion for a new bus rapid transit program that will link people to job and educational opportunities in fast growing areas. It will remove barriers to local workforce training and hiring efforts. And it will implement a new performance element in the Federal-aid Highway program to ensure future investments connect communities to jobs, training, and education.

We were also pleasantly surprised to see an increase for transit funding overall. The FY 2015 request includes $48.6 billion for the Federal Highway Administration and $17.5B for the Federal Transit Administration. "This represents a 73.5% / 26.5% split," an administration staffer told us -- a departure from the historic "80/20 split" between highways and transit that reflects a historic bias toward subsidizing car travel. We thought it looked a little different!

To be clear: our understanding is the Highway Trust Fund will still be split 80/20, but that other funds (to be made up form new taxes on businesses) would shift the ratio. While it may not sound like a big percentage change, because we're talking big numbers that could actually lead to hundreds of millions more for mass transit.

This is great news for affiliates such as MOSES that is pushing for funding for the Detroit RTA it helped to create and other groups, like MCU and Esther who are pushing for bus rapid transit as well as more buses and trains.

Back to reality -- how much of this will Congress pass? Will they vote on any of it? Maybe what matters most about this budget is that its aspirations are more in the right place than any time we can recall from the past several years, and that's something to celebrate in itself. We have shifted the public debate, and that's a good start.

Our friends at PolicyLink had a great takeon the budget. As they point out on their Equity Blog  this is a budget that recognizes that "America is rapidly becoming majority people of color [and] we need to provide ladders to opportunity in the places where people live, learn, and work."

Tags: |
To post a comment, you must be a registered user.

  |  Login

Tag Cloud