Transcript: Q&A w/ Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham on the CBO’s 2014 budget & economic outlook

Partial transcript of Q&A with Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico) on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) 2014 federal budget and economic outlook. The House Budget Committee hearing was held on Feb. 5, 2014:

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico):
…Increasing the minimum wage. Some of my colleagues are going to argue that minimum wage earners are mostly teenagers entering the workforce for the first time. They’re going to argue that that’s really a drag then – increasing the minimum wage – on the economy. You might suspect that I disagree with that statement.

The average age of a minimum wage worker is 35. These are adults who bring a significant portion of their family’s income, and a majority of these are women. Nearly two-thirds of the minimum wage workers are women.

While we have you here, I’d like to get more information on that second point and really hone in on the impact the increase in the minimum wage would have on the economy.

Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office:
Well, Congresswoman, you’re certainly right that minimum wage workers span the age distribution – some are teenagers but many, many are not.

We are currently trying to complete a report on the effects of increasing the minimum wage on the economy, taking account both of the increases in wages and income for many people and also what we would expect would be employment loss for some people. Now, we hope to finish that report and release it within a few weeks. I don’t want to – rather not offer my sense of that until the analysis is completed. But we do want to put this before the Congress in time for it to be useful information for you and your colleagues as you consider this legislation.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico):
Well, I appreciate that because the studies and the reports certainly that I have read indicate that it has positive impact on both wages, earnings, spending, and therefore jobs and certainly impacts women. In my state, where you have so many women as the single heads of household, that’s going to be a significant impact on our economy as does comprehensive immigration reform has a significant impact on the economy not only in New Mexico but on the entire country.

Can you estimate for me the impact passing immigration reform has on the GDP over the next decade?

Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office:
So as you know, Congresswoman, we did a very thorough analysis of the legislation that was passed by the Senate to increase immigration. And we thought that legislation would reduce the budget deficit in this decade and the following decade. We thought it would increase the size of the economy. It would increase overall GDP. And also not right away but over time, it would increase GDP per person in the country.

But I should emphasize that that analysis was specific to that piece of legislation. Alternative sorts of changes in our immigration policy might lead to rather different effects.

But that piece of legislation would, as I said, increase the size of the economy and reduce the budget deficit.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico):
And I’m going to just give those figures using the Senate’s bill. We’re looking at the impact on the GDP over the decade is $832 billion, and the impact on the deficit over the next two decades is about $850 billion for the positive. That sounds about right?

Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office:
I’ll take your word for it, Congresswoman. I just don’t have those numbers right in front of me.


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