Larsen Calls For Budget That Creates More Jobs, More Access To Skills Training

Feb 3, 2016 Issues: Budget, Education, Jobs Labor and the Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today called for investments to support long-term economic growth and opportunity in Northwest Washington in a statement to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget. Larsen highlighted his priorities for the coming year and urged the committee to fund critical investments that create more jobs and more access to skills training. The full text of Larsen’s testimony follows.

Chairman Price, Ranking Member Van Hollen, and members of the Committee: Thank you for the chance to speak to you about investments in our economic future in Northwest Washington, where I am from, and across our nation.

Our country has made a lot of economic progress since the Great Recession. With the unemployment rate down to 5 percent nationally, people are getting back to work.

But it’s clear that not everyone is sharing in the benefits of a growing economy, and many people understandably feel uncertain about the future.

That’s why I ask your support today for investments in the coming year that will grow our economy so people have access to more good-paying jobs, more skills training, more financial security, and more opportunities to participate fully in their communities.

Let me elaborate on each of these critical priorities I will be working on over the next several months.

One of the best ways I know to put people to work is to invest in our roads, bridges, highways and transit systems.

The FAST Act that Congress passed in December makes critical investments in our country’s transportation infrastructure and brings more funding certainty to our communities for transportation repair and upgrade projects for the next five years.

Now we need to make sure this bill translates into results. I ask that you fully fund the FAST Act in the coming year so cities and counties in my district and nationwide can put people to work building and repairing their infrastructure.

Another linchpin of our transportation network is our aviation system, which generates jobs and economic activity in Northwest Washington and across the country that cannot be overstated.

As the Ranking Member of the Aviation Subcommittee, one of my top priorities is to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration to maintain the U.S. aviation system’s impressive safety record and global leadership.

While our country’s airspace is one of the safest and most efficient in the world, there are updates and new technology that we need to incorporate through the Next Generation Air Transportation system.

I urge this committee to provide stable and adequate funding for the FAA so it can move forward with critical NextGen reforms.

Just as my state’s economy depends on reliable and safe transportation networks, it also depends on access to international markets.

Foreign trade touches 40 percent of all jobs in Washington state. When we export our products around the world, we create jobs here at home.

I urge this committee to fund the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program, which helps small- and medium-sized businesses find new markets and overcome the hurdles to export.

More than 450 small businesses in Washington state have benefitted from the program.

My state is on track to generate a return of $182 for every $1 invested in small businesses through STEP.

That kind of success begs repeating, and I request that the committee fully fund STEP.

A strong economy demands that people can get the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.

More than 90 percent of apprentices are employed after they finish their apprenticeships, and the average starting salary is $50,000.

That is why I have introduced the Youth Access to American Jobs Act, to create a pathway to engage students in STEM-related fields from their junior year in high school through community college and into an apprenticeship.

By linking schools with apprenticeship programs, students will gain hands-on experience and skills directly related to workforce needs in their area. 

I ask this committee to fully fund apprenticeship opportunities that are giving thousands of people each year access to critical skills training.

Finishing an education should lead to focus on the future, not financial ruin.

I urge the committee to fully fund post-secondary education programs that reduce the debt students have when they graduate, such as Pell Grants.

Pell Grants help about 13,000 students and families in my district to gain skills in advanced manufacturing, engineering, and nursing. Many of these students could not otherwise afford college.

I also want to see students have the opportunity to refinance their loans at lower rates so they can focus on their futures, instead of their debt.

The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act is a key way we can cut down on student debt, and I hope members of the committee will join me in supporting this bill.

The priorities we include in our country’s budget make a powerful statement about our values and what matters to our communities.

As you craft the budget for the coming year, I ask that you consider the critical role that transportation, small business exports and education access play in my district and around the country.

Thank you for your consideration.