Transcript: Remarks by Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz on Obama’s FY2014 budget

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of remarks by Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, on President Barack Obama’s FY2014 budget. The press briefing was held on April 10, 2013.

So this budget builds on the progress that we’ve made over the last 4 years in expanding opportunity for every community and every American willing to work hard and lift themselves up.

You’ve heard us all describe and most importantly the President himself that we need to equip every American with the skills that they need to do the job and to get on a clear path to the middle-class.

That education has to start in the earliest years so that our kids start school ready to learn.

So there’s clear evidence that the return on investment for high-quality pre-school is very high. But we also know that a lot of middle-class parents can’t afford private pre-school.

So this budget includes a proposal to ensure that every 4-year-old in this country has access to high-quality pre-school, which not only gives our kids the best possible start in life but it delivers a host of other benefits to our society, including saving hardworking families a lot of money – thousands each year – in childcare costs.

The budget envisions this as a federal-state partnership, much like the way that K-12 educational system works.

It creates incentives for states to also promote access to high-quality full-day kindergarten as well as to expand opportunities for high-quality child care for children younger than age 4.

It’s an investment of $75 billion over 10 years, which we propose to finance by raising the federal tax on cigarettes by about 94 cents a pack. Studies make very, very clear that higher cigarette prices deter kids from taking up smoking and yield all kinds of health benefits throughout their lives.

So this is a major investment in the future of our economy, in the future of our children.

And I would say that anybody who’s been around a 4-year-old can likely attest that they are a powerful force for the future and they’re more than worth the investment.

The pre-K proposal is part of a suite of early childhood proposals in this budget. I’m just going to briefly touch on two others.

There’s a $1.6 billion investment to grow the supply of high-quality early learning opportunities for kids from birth to age 3 as well as a $15 billion investment in successful evidence-based voluntary home visiting programs to help the most vulnerable first-time parents and their families. And that’s another example of a program where the evidence just demonstrates extraordinary benefits over time to those kids and to those families and to the rest of us overall.

I want to touch on also on the Promise Zones proposal. This is consistent with the President’s vision of making sure that we are protecting and growing the middle-class and also providing, as he calls them, ladders of opportunity for people who are still struggling to reach the middle-class.

So the budget provides details on the President’s Promise Zones proposal, which is an investment in 20 of the hardest communities across the country with the highest poverty. And it does this by expanding tax credits but also by making additional investments in existing administration programs. We think of these as sort of signature programs that have demonstrated real value and real impact that are expanding in this budget. There’s a $35 million investment in proven public safety, anti-crime, anti-violence programs for these communities. A $300 million investment in the Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program and a $400 million investment in HUD’s [Housing and Urban Development] Choice Neighborhoods program.

And the idea’s for the agencies to be coordinating in making investments in these hard-hit communities to make sure that we’re helping local leadership get communities on the other side of the tipping point, to create opportunities, to create jobs, to make sure that folks are ready for those jobs and that we’re making opportunity available in these parts of the country again.

Part of the Ladders of Opportunity Initiative also includes the President’s proposal to expand the minimum wage, which you’ve heard about, to $9 an hour.

The budget also outlines a variety of proposals to continue investing and building a competitive workforce. One of the principal of such proposals is something you’ve heard the President describe in the State of the Union address – it’s a high school redesign proposal. It’s a competitive $300 million fund to provide challenging and relevant learning experiences to students in high school, linking them to higher education, linking them to employers, improving instruction, and preparing students both for higher education as well as the workforces they will be entering when they finish school.

You heard Gene mention the community college to careers program.

And there’s also in this budget demonstration of the President’s continued commitment to high-quality instruction and expansion of education in STEM field – science, technology, engineering, and math.

In particular, what this budget proposes is a consolidation of a variety of STEM education programs that exists now all across the federal government. There’s some 200 such programs now. The budget proposes to consolidate those so that we can maximize the use and the impact of every one of those dollars.

In addition, the budget builds on the President’s previous proposals to control the cost of higher education. So there’s a $260 million First in the World fund to spur cutting edge innovations aimed at driving the cost of college down. There are reforms to campus aid programs, again, to reward colleges that are driving costs down and moving quality up. And a $1 billion Race to the Top-style fund to support competitive programs in states, again, to drive higher education reform with the particular view towards reducing college costs.

I’m just going to highlight a couple of things as well with respect to energy in the budget.

The budget continues the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy that you’ve heard us talking about. And just 2 quick highlights. There’s an energy security trust – a $2 billion investment over 10 years to support research into a range of cost-effective transportation technologies and a Race-to-the-Top style investment of $200 million to encourage states to cut energy waste and build efficiency and modernize the grid.


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