By Sylvia Mathews Burwell
President Barack Obama's 2015 budget provides a roadmap for accelerating economic growth and expanding opportunity for all, while continuing to improve the nation's long-term fiscal outlook.
Despite the significant progress we have made in recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression, too many Americans are still struggling to join the middle class or stay there. That is why the president's top priority remains growing the economy and building ladders of opportunity for all Americans to get ahead.
To create jobs and accelerate growth, the budget includes an ambitious four-year plan that will put people to work repairing and modernizing our nation's transportation infrastructure, paid for with one-time revenue generated by pro-growth business tax reform. It invests in American innovation and strengthens our manufacturing base by supporting the president's goal of creating a national network of 45 manufacturing institutes. And it supports groundbreaking research to fight disease, protect the environment and develop new technologies.
The budget also enhances the administration's efforts to deliver a 21st-Century government that is more effective, efficient and supportive of economic growth, focusing on areas directly impacting citizens and businesses. For example, it expands the president's initiative to modernize the federal permitting process for major infrastructure projects, cutting red tape to get more construction workers on the job faster, while still protecting communities and the environment.
To expand opportunity, the budget doubles the maximum value of the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers to build on the EITC's success in encouraging people to enter the workforce and reducing poverty. It invests in the president's vision of making access to high-quality preschool available to every four-year-old child. And it invests in new efforts to drive greater performance and innovation in work-force training to equip American workers with skills that match the needs of employers.
To ensure the nation's long-term fiscal strength, the budget focuses on the primary drivers of long-term debt and deficits. It builds on the reforms in the Affordable Care Act with another $400 billion in health care savings, continuing to slow health-care cost growth and improve the quality of care.
It curbs inefficient tax breaks that benefit the wealthiest, and calls for pro-growth immigration reform, which the Congressional Budget Office has found would increase economic growth and reduce the deficit by about $160 billion in the next decade and by almost $1 trillion over the next 20 years.
Under the president's leadership, the deficit has already been cut in half as a share of the economy, the largest sustained period of deficit reduction since World War II. By paying for new investments and tackling our true fiscal challenges, the budget continues that progress, reducing deficits as a share of the economy to 1.6 percent by 2024, stabilizing debt as a share of the economy by 2015 and putting it on a declining path after that.
In recognition of the important bipartisan funding compromise reached by Congress in December, the budget adheres to the 2015 spending levels that were agreed to in that deal. And it shows the tradeoffs and choices the president would make at those levels.
However, those levels are not sufficient — in 2015 and beyond — to ensure the nation is achieving its full potential.
For that reason, the budget also includes a $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative — split evenly between defense and non-defense priorities — which presents additional investments in critical areas, such as education, research, manufacturing and security. And the Initiative is fully paid for with a balanced package of spending cuts and tax reforms, so it does not add a dime to the deficit.
The president's budget provides a responsible, balanced and concrete plan that can serve as a guide for Congress in its work over the coming year and help ensure that all of our citizens enjoy the benefits of a strong and prosperous America for generations to come.