It’s been a busy couple of weeks. And it’s one of the best times of the year: March Madness! If you’re like me, your bracket is already busted. (Who would’ve guessed that a team called the Retrievers would take out my national champ pick!?!?).
Plus, there’s only 10 days until baseball’s opening day. And Ichiro is back!
In addition to a great time for sports fans, this is a busy time of year. Let me provide a quick update.
Working to pass an appropriations bill
As you may recall, back in February, Congress passed a bill to fund the government until March 23. That means this week will be eventful as Congress works to avert (yet another) government shutdown by Friday’s deadline.
With an agreement on overall funding levels, it was thought that there would be a reasonably clear path to a bipartisan agreement. I continue to hope that will be the case.
Unfortunately, because this funding package is “must-pass,” Congressional leaders are trying to attach a number of controversial “poison pill” riders to the bill.
So, what’s going to happen?
Well, there may be an omnibus spending bill that provides stable funding through the end of the fiscal year (i.e., the end of September). Alternatively, Congress could fail to come to an agreement--leading either to another kicking of the can (known in DC as a “continuing resolution”) or even a potential shutdown. In other words, Congress may manage to snatch defeat from the claws of victory. To use a legislative technical term: “Yeesh!”
Like a lot of folks, I’ve had enough of the game-playing and can-kicking that we’ve seen out of Washington DC. The constant budget crises is like a bad version of the movie Groundhog Day. It’s far past time for Congress to get its act together and pass a long-term, bipartisan agreement.
Please know that I’ll keep working toward that end!
Making college affordable
For a lot of kids, this is also the time of year in which they are frantically checking the mail each day for an acceptance letter from a college.
These days, a lot of folks--of all ages--are wondering if they can afford to take that next step. According to the Federal Reserve, Americans hold a record $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Having a lot of debt after college means that graduates have to make tough choices as they start out on their own.Some have to delay buying a car, getting married, having kids or buying a house. Young graduates from our neck of the woods also have to think about debt as they decide where they apply for jobs. Some are wondering whether they can afford to return home, or if they have to seek better-paying opportunities far away.
I spend a lot of my time as your representative working on these issues.
I look at education as the door to economic opportunity. And for a lot of families--including mine--financial aid is often the key to that door. I couldn’t have afforded to go to college if it hadn’t been for financial aid. Like a lot of students, I got grants and loans and help from my community. I wasn’t unique in that regard.
A lot of students are able to defray the costs of college by participating in the Federal Work Study program. Sometimes that involves getting an on-campus job in the college gym or dining hall.
But the economy’s changing, and the Federal Work Study program should change with it.
Federal Work Study students ought to have more of an opportunity to be placed in jobs that teach them skills they can put on their resume--jobs that could lead to a job or even a career after graduation. This is especially important for students from families that aren’t well-off. In the current system, students who can afford to take on unpaid internships gain valuable work experience that helps them secure good jobs after graduation. In contrast, low-income students are often left to work multiple jobs to afford college, and after graduation many end up in low wage jobs that are not connected to their field of study.
To address this, late last week, I introduced a bill called The Opportunities for Success Act which modernizes the Federal Work Study Program so it helps hard-working college students get the skills they need to compete. You can read more about that here.
Among other things, the bill provides incentives for colleges and universities to place students in jobs that could lead to a career. In addition, students would be eligible for Federal Work study year-round.
I’m hopeful that it will move forward in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned!
Pushing back against cuts that hurt college students
There’s a famous quote by former Vice President Joe Biden: “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.”
I value investments in education. As the son of two teachers and as the dad of two little girls in public school, I believe Ben Franklin had it right when he wrote: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
That’s why, as I’ve written in past updates, I’ve been working on proposals to expand apprenticeship opportunities and to strengthen career and technical education in our K-12 schools. And it’s why I’m working to strengthen financial aid.
While not every job will require a college education, it’s important that we make college more affordable and create opportunities for people to learn new skills. The budget of a country that wants to grow jobs and compete in the global economy ought to demonstrate that value.
Unfortunately, the budget proposal recently released by the president would make America’s student debt problem much worse.
President Trump’s budget proposes cutting $4 billion in annual funding for student aid programs. It also makes a bunch of changes that don’t help students.
For example, his budget proposes charging interest on student loans while students are still in college, and changing income-based repayment programs that currently make it easier to pay back loans over time.
His budget also does away with programs that forgive the student loans of people who serve the country--highly skilled folks like teachers and police officers. This news article covers the cuts and changes the president has proposed.
That’s just the wrong direction.
Government should be focused on creating more opportunities for more people in more places. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of money a person makes goes up and the chance that person is unemployed goes down as educational attainment rises. This also matters for our region. None of us want to see our region’s top export be young people. We know that the more skilled workers our area has, the more we can attract and retain employers. Please know that I’ll continue working for progress on this front.
Going back to school
These issues are so important to me, that I’m going back to school.
In the weeks ahead, I’ll be hosting town hall meetings with college students all across our region on their campuses.
I want the chance to hear from folks about their priorities. I hope you can join me too. Head on over to my Facebook page to find the dates and times that best work for you. I’m looking forward to talking to you soon.
Working for you
Since my last update, I’ve had a great opportunity to visit with folks all throughout our region.
I participated in Kitsap Military Appreciation Day at the Fairgrounds in Silverdale. It was a terrific event focused on providing resources to those in the armed services and their families. Thanks to the Silverdale Chamber and everyone who made it such a special event!
I was honored to join 150 non-profit leaders, professors, and business leaders from around our region to discuss the economic and security benefits of American leadership in world affairs. I learned a lot from my co-panelists, Lt. General Stephen Lanza, who recently retired from his post leading JBLM, Ambassador Robert Pearson, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey from 2000 to 2003, and Carey Campbell the National Outreach Director of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC).
Last night, I had the chance to participate in an outstanding celebration of arts education at Tacoma’s Broadway Center for the Performing Arts!
OK...that’s it for this round. Feel free to reach out if I can ever lend a hand. Until then, I’ll be yelling at my TV for the Huskies to win the NIT and for Gonzaga to win the NCAA Championship!
As always, it’s an honor to represent you.
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