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Kline Statement on FY 2011 Budget

Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the top Republican on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, commented today on President Obama’s FY 2011 budget request, applauding some key education investments and reform proposals while questioning a pervasive culture of favoritism that pits union leadership against rank-and-file workers while emphasizing “gotcha” policies that penalize job creators.

Education & Training

The Obama Administration’s budget proposal calls for an increase of as much as $4.5 billion for education programs, with $1.35 billion directed to the Race to the Top fund, an initiative proposed as a temporary measure in last year’s economic stimulus package. The budget proposes a modest $250 million increase in special education funding, far less than what is necessary to substantially increase the federal share of special education costs and move the federal government closer to meeting its obligation to schools under these programs. 

“While I welcome responsible investments in programs that improve educational opportunity, this Administration has demonstrated a troubling affinity for new federal mandates and intrusions in exchange for new education dollars,” said Kline. “Improving our schools for the 21st century is not merely a matter of dollars and cents. I will be reviewing the full education budget proposal with an eye toward educational innovation and flexibility – and an understanding that the road to reform does not begin or end in Washington, D.C.” 

For job training programs under the Workforce Investment Act, the President’s budget proposal diverts resources to two new “innovation” funds without a clear policy direction. The budget also directs $85 million to training for green jobs, an initiative that in the past has been restricted to union affiliates, thereby limiting training opportunities for the majority of the construction workforce. 

“When it comes to training workers for the 21st century, we need more freedom at the local level, not less,” said Kline. “It’s time to abandon programs that favor one group of workers over another. I’m also troubled by efforts to fragment our workforce development system at a time when Republicans have been working to streamline these programs and give local communities as much flexibility as possible.” 

Workplace Policies

The Obama Administration’s budget plan includes $50 million in new federal funding to shape state-level paid leave policies and significantly increases Department of Labor enforcement and investigation offices, including a 20 percent increase for wage and hour law enforcement. The plan also proposes mandatory automatic enrollment in IRAs be offered by employers that do not offer other retirement savings plans. 

“Unfortunately, the Administration seems not to have gotten the message that the key to job creation is not bigger government. From federal workplace leave policies to federal retirement savings plans, this budget continues to emphasize the Washington-knows-best mentality the American people have rejected,” said Kline. “It’s too soon to know how these new proposals will fare on Main Street, but I’ll be reviewing them closely with the understanding that our number one priority is to create and sustain jobs – not simply expand the reach of the federal government.” 

“The executive branch has a duty to enforce our laws, and that includes the rules that govern our workplaces. However, this budget reflects a troubling trend toward punitive enforcement designed to demonize employers rather than promote consistent application of the laws that protect our workers,” continued Kline. “Particularly in a weak economy, the American businesses that provide the very jobs we need should not live in fear of the government. An approach that is all stick and no carrot, however, is likely to make that fear a reality.” 

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