National Association of State Budget Officers

Friday, Apr. 26, 2013

Alburquerque, New Mexico

National Association of State Budget Officers

Thank you, Jerry. It is a real pleasure to be here today and to speak to you.

I’d like to take a moment, in the name of full disclosure to tell you that I have known Jerry for some time. (personal story of your work together.) 

I know budget officers toil under great stress with little reward or recognition.

You have the most complicated, least sexy job, and ultimately most important job in state government.

The vast majority of you must work within the confines of a constitutionally mandated balanced budget.

Shrinking revenues mixed with an increased need in just about every sector can create real nightmares for you, I know.

Having been a state legislator and working closely with or for several governors over the years I understand the complexity of the decisions you must make to keep your states solvent.

Revenue shortfalls occur all the time. In Florida, for example, my home state, we were dependent on revenues generated by the sales and property taxes.

When the real estate market went from boom to bust, falling property values and a marked decline in tourism, created serious revenue, and therefore budget, issues.

As budget officers you don’t have the authority to raise revenues to meet the budgetary priorities already laid out by your legislatures and governors. You just have to make the numbers work, one way or another.

I am always amazed that year-in, year-out those states with balanced budget amendments get the job done.

Within that environment, you seek maximum flexibility to spend state revenues and federal supports in a manner befitting your state’s priorities for the year.

Within that same environment, we seek maximum compliance. The American people demand it.

This dynamic may create certain, shall I say, tensions in the system from time to time.  

So, I understand yours is a thankless job. But no state could operate without you.

Before I go on, I must say that Jerry McDaniel has always done a wonderful job in Florida of balancing those sometimes competing interests in the best interests of Floridians.

On April 10th, President Obama sent his budget to Congress.

I do not claim to be an expert on the entirety of that budget, but I do know HHS’s budget and in particular, the Administration for Children and Families’ budget quite well.

First I want to underscore several of the president’s main themes and objectives with this budget.

In his message to Congress President Obama wrote:

“It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child in this great nation.”

“A growing economy that creates good middle class jobs--this must be our North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a Nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get these jobs? And, how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”
The president’s budget is a jobs budget. When people are working they are supporting their families and they are paying taxes. Jobs, good jobs, create and drive growth.

But in order to initiative and maintain the kind of growth the president’s budget contemplates, we have to lay a solid educational foundation for EVERY child in this Country.

No longer can we afford to let the ZIP code in which you were born and live determine the quality of education you receive or the prospects before you.

I have always said, the two most important determinants to economic and social well-being are access to quality health care and education.

The best way to help a family lift itself up from crushing poverty to economic self-sufficiency is to provide that family, all families, with access to quality health care and quality public education.

Going without health care is a costly option that will only place a family at greater risk of unemployment, lost wages, and a lack of new opportunity.

A sick man with no health insurance and no access to health care cannot provide for his family. An uneducated mother cannot pass on the power of literacy to her children.

Education in this country is quite literally the key to economic success. With it, opportunities abound. Without it, doors will close and access to economic opportunity is denied.

To address the first, the president’s budget continues the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. With it every American will have access to the high-quality affordable health care they deserve.

Moreover, this will reduce the deficit by more than one-trillion dollars over the next two decades.

We talk a lot about the social determinants of health. Not being able to afford, or not having access to health insurance will no longer be one of those adverse indicators.

The Affordable Care Act is already making a huge difference in Americans’ lives, and our budget makes sure we can continue to implement the law to give more Americans the security of affordable health coverage. 

No matter your politics, knowing everyone in your community will now have access to health care as good as yours has got to make you feel better as an American.

Open enrollment for the new Health Insurance Marketplaces begins on October 1st of this year, and coverage will start on January 1st. 

This budget supports the operation of the Federally Facilitated Marketplaces, and provides for the assistance and oversight needs of the State-Based and State Partnership Marketplaces as well. 

This will ensure that starting next January, Americans in every state have somewhere they can go to get quality health insurance to fit their budget.

So, more jobs, and access to health care, we still need to ensure the workforce of tomorrow is properly educated.

None of the president’s other job growth proposals will matter much unless we equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.

The president has proposed a series of new investments that will establish a pathway to school entry based on high-quality early learning for all children – beginning at birth and continuing to age 5. 

President Obama’s plan calls for a new federal-state cost-sharing partnership with all 50 states to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year-old children from families at or below 200 percent of poverty with high-quality preschool.

These programs will also expand to reach additional children from middle class families and will provide incentives for full-day kindergarten.

To expand high-quality early learning opportunities, the President’s plan calls for a significant investment in a new Early Head Start-Child Care partnership. 

Through ACF, competitive grants will support communities that expand the availability of Early Head Start and child care providers who can meet the highest standards of quality for infants and toddlers.

We’re also bolstering our commitment to America’s children by providing additional support to promote evidence-based home visiting for new parents. 

These investments work together with our support of early education initiatives to create long-lasting positive outcomes for families, and provide huge returns on investment. 

Children who participate in these programs are more likely to succeed in school and secure good jobs later in life.  And we all benefit from a more productive workforce, lower crime rates, and reduced need for public assistance.

Through the Affordable Care Act and the president’s Early Learning proposals we are giving families the tools, training and resources they need to lift themselves up out of poverty and toward economic self-sufficiency. President Obama calls these Ladders of Opportunity.

One other item I’d like to discuss with you today is what the President’s budget says about Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

The first and most important thing is the overall amount for TANF funding remains unchanged from the previous year: 17.3 billion dollars, give or take a few.

The second is that there is no new language, in the president’s budget, regarding waivers for states looking for flexibility around the Work Requirements and Maintenance of Effort provisions.

So, in short, TANF will remain unchanged, as per the president’s budget, for another year or until reauthorization, which is when Congress may decide it’s time to change a few or a lot of provisions within the program.

And, quite frankly, we are not seeing a great deal of interest at this point to move reauthorization forward at this time.

When the time comes, I am sure we would want to hear from NASBO regarding what you think works, what doesn’t and what reforms you would recommend.

Many of you have already wrestled great flexibilities from the existing structure. Together we share the mission to provide families trying to work their way into the middle class every opportunity possible.

Whatever changes we contemplate, we must always remember that at its core TANF must continue to:

  • Provide assistance to needy families so children can remain in their homes
  • Promote job preparation, work and marriage
  • Prevent and reduces the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and
  • Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families

All of which are good for your state’s economy, they’re good for the national economy and they’re the right things to do for American families.

Thank you.

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