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The Federal Budget: What should be the priorities?

February 11, 2015

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

President Obama introduced his fiscal year 2016 budget proposal in late January, outlining his goals for his last two years in office. His $4 trillion request to Congress outlines major increases in federal spending in almost all areas.

Before getting to the nuts and bolts of this proposal, let’s take a look at the budget process. How the country creates a budget is outlined in Article I, Section 7, of the U.S. Constitution, which states:

“All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.”

Originally the president would simply veto or sign a budget bill into law, but that changed in 1921, when Congress passed a law that made the president responsible for drafting the budget. This was intended to centralize the budget process. Before, independent federal agencies would submit budgets to the congressional committee. There was little coordination among committees and little oversight to create a concise federal budget.

Under the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the president submits a budget request, due by the first Monday in February, that includes the next year’s funding for all agencies. Congress then drafts its own budget resolution, which may take in account the budget and tax rates proposed by the president. After the budget resolution is passed, Congress considers appropriations bills required to fund programs and to implement changes in spending or revenue levels. The House and Senate approve these bills, which are then sent to the president for approval or a veto.

In order to pay for the increased spending for fiscal 2016, which starts Oct. 1, the president proposes closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing some types of taxes for married couples who make over $500,000 annually or individuals who earn over $250,000. His budget also calls for tax cuts for the majority of Americans, up to $500 for married couples.

The budget calls for an increase in spending in many areas of the federal government. It also proposes the reorganization of several agencies that have overlapping oversight. The budget provisions include:

•   $70.7 billion for education, a 5 percent increase over the 2015 budget, with $60 billion over 10 years going toward making the first two years of community college free for students with a GPA over 2.5. The budget also increases funding for early education programs, including tuition assistance for families that struggle to pay for preschool or day care. $125 million would go toward a program that would “redesign” high school with a focus on technology, math, science and engineering.
•   $1.3 billion to the Labor Department, including proposals for doubling the number of job training programs for workers and an increase in the minimum wage, from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
•   $478 billion to reinvest into the aging roads, bridges, transit and other national infrastructure, allocated to the Department of Transportation.
•   $7.4 billion for investments in clean energy technologies, with an additional $4 billion for states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
•   $23.5 billion to the Department of Agriculture, a cut of roughly $300 million. The budget would take food regulatory powers from the department and consolidate them with the Food and Drug Administration into a single entity that would be a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Now, the Department of Agriculture has some overlapping regulatory powers, which leads to confusion and gaps in ensuring that food-borne illness outbreaks are kept to a minimum. The budget also calls for an increase in crop insurance for farmers whose crops yields have been damaged by the changing weather patterns associated with climate change.

What do you think?

How would the president’s budget proposal affect you? Which budget provisions do you think are most important? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!

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Stroudsburg, PA
Mr. Hanna Stroudsburg Junior high school
It would effect me because of the things we use every day paid for by us and the government. I think education is the most important because if people don't get a good education, then they might not get jobs. And without jobs, people will become homeless.

Mr. Jabro
Every budget proposal affects me in some way or another. The most direct impact to me would be the Labor Department rise of minimum wage. As a lifeguard I make a couple dollars over the current minimum wage however not as much as the new minimum wage, therefore I believe that raising minimum wage will ultimately force all wages to increase as well, thus possibly running the risk of inflation. Funding for community college students who have qualified is a good idea for the future, because it gives opportunity for the those who may have faced financial barriers before.

Obviously, as a student, the $70.7 billion dollars towards education is immensely helpful for my seeking a higher education for a better paying career. Furthermore, the clean energy and transportation funds are also very important not only for me but for everyone! The clean energy/greenhouse gas emission reduction provision is the most important provision, (barely ahead of education; education is the best investment in the future generations). The reason the clean energy provision is so important is simple: we are undergoing severe climate change and it is our duty to combat this. The IPCC’s 2013 report stressed governments to adapt a carbon budget or else we will destroy our own world. It is for this great cause the clean energy funds are so important to the well being of not just this nation, but for mankind, and the Earth.

Obama’s budget proposal will affect me and other adolescents within the labor force. The increase of the minimum wage of seven dollars to ten dollars will allow minimum wage employees to gain more money. Also the money going to redesigning high school’s technology , science, and engineering programs would have been able to benefit me and the other students partaking in the engineering-related programs. However, the biggest impact the proposal will have for me is the sixty billion dollars going towards making the first two years of community college for free. As a senior who is about to graduate, I would be benefitted by the first two years of community college for free, and being able to gain and save money with the increased minimum wage. Also the money going into aging roads, infrastructures, and clean energy will benefit the people’s safety on the roads, and being able to keep pollution at minimal as well.

The budget programs which have the greatest potential to affect me are those associated with labor which call for more job training and a higher minimum wage. As a senior who is preparing to go off to college and live off of minimum wage, I am very invested in the future of this budget proposal. I am pleased to see the emphasis placed on maintenance of infrastructure, although it is worrisome to see just how far this portion of the budget outstrips those of education and environmental protection. After all, without educated citizens or a world for them to live in, who needs roads?

Almost every aspect of the Presidents proposal affects me thus I consider all of them to be important. In particular the two free years of community college is an amazing deal considering most people transfer out to a University anyway after two years. As such I would argue the free community college provision is the most important as it should lead to more students going to College and as a result more skilled prospective workers.

The budget proposal that would affect me the most is the free two years of community college. Going to a university for four years is very expensive, so if I could get two years of roughly the same classes for free it would benefit me. The most important proposal is the one about raising the minimum wage from 7.25 to 10.10 an hour. Although it might sound like a good idea now, it might have negative impact on society. Raising the minimum wage could also raise the prices of other things and would cause the living expense to go up. Raising the minimum wage might discourage people from continuing their education or even increasing the dropout rate of high school students.

Nimitz Highschool
The education bullet point thats seems to apply to me is the 60 billion towards the making of community college free all. this will not only effect me as a soon to be college student but also my children. these numbers are fairly arbitrary to me seeing that just the thought of 478 BILLION dollars isnt even feasible to me, However driving is fun and you kinda need roads to do that. so i GUESS we can fix the roads.

The way the government spends its budget is probably one of the most important components of the government. Without a proper way of spending and a grasp on the nation’s necessitees, wouldn’t America’s backbone fall apart? After all, we are built upon money, it is what mad this country and it is what can break us. I have always been in favor of President Barack Obama, he is in love with our nation and he fights to keep the citizens’ best interest at hand. His plans for the federal budget during his last two years of presidency are quite promising. The first two years of community college free, higher minimum wage, agriculture improvements, and enhancements on the nation’s infrastructure is just heart warming. What resonates with me most is President Obama’s decision to have the first two years of community college free. I believe that education is not a privilege but a right and I find it appalling that american college is an tenebrous abyss of debt. But to Obama has decided to start taking baby steps to a rightful education. Even though my family is middle class, $20,000 per year for at least four years is unattainable. I am forced to live at home and go to community college but having it free cushions the fall and is quite appealing the my parent’s banking account. I applaud President Obama for letting his morality and compassion for helping America’s citizens triumph the negative comments and disbelievers of his decisions.

Murrieta, CA
I think budget proposals would positively effect me, because of the 2.5 GPA and then going to an community college and the that would probably inspire alot of students like me to transfer to a four year university. I think its the most important budget proposal since its about our education.

Every budget proposal affects me in some way or another. The most direct impact to me would be the Labor Department rise of minimum wage. As a lifeguard I make a couple dollars over the current minimum wage however not as much as the new minimum wage, therefore I believe that raising minimum wage will ultimately force all wages to increase as well, thus possibly running the risk of inflation. Funding for community college students who have qualified is a good idea for the future, because it gives opportunity for the those who may have faced financial barriers before. My only fear for government funded college is the degree in which college education could be socialized; standardized education in college similar to public schools would take away colleges independence. All other budget proposals seem adequate and appropriate.

Murrieta CA
Alexander Walton
Jabro Creekside High Scool
I think that the budget would positively affect me in several ways. I believe the proposal for the first two years of community college being free for students with a GPA of at least 2.5 would influence me and many other Americans to increase their academic depth and possibly consider transferring to a four year university. This budget provision is by far the most important proposal in the list. The 1.3 billion proposal is also very important because it helps people that are struggling to live on their own with what they make.

The president's budget proposal would positively affect me especially in regards of Labor. Because I am nearing the legal age of maturity, labor is & will always be an extremely important aspect in my life. However, if I plan to--once I graduate & head off to college--become an independent citizen who pays for everything out of my own pocket, $7.25 an hour is not going to do much. In regards of the $70 billion over 10 years going towards making the first couple of years of specifically community colleges free for specific students, I, & a good amount of others, will not be effected whatsoever due to the fact that I, as well as many other American citizens, plan to attend four year schools. Out of all of the points brought forth in the president's proposal, I believe that the most important points are the investments in clean energy technologies and the monies towards the Labor Department.

The president’s budget proposal affects me in all aspects, because the budgets proposed by the president are regarding all the necessary means for example “first two years of community college will be free for students with a GPA over 2.5”- education is the most important and necessary subject of life and by making this proposal the president is giving a relief to those who can not afford to get in college , it does not only affect me but every citizen. Other than the education, investing for environmental protection by investing in clean energy technologies will help me and everyone live in a clean environment and live a happy and safe life. The most important budget provision according to me is to increase the minimum wage which will help me until I will graduate, for instance, I will need to work in between my studies to help myself pay the tuition for the university and with the minimum wage be 10.10 I will be able to earn much to pay those fees, I think this proposal is beneficial for all because it will make easier to make a living for people.

The president’s budget would affect me for sure. Having had a couple of jobs in high school, I never thought it was very difficult to find a job, as I just called a couple of restaurants/retail stores and asked if they were hiring. Usually, this landed me a job right away with a quick interview/information session. However, as I began working, I realized the reason why “finding a job” was so difficult was because the money I usually made, minimum wage, wasn’t enough for even my expenditures, let alone trying to raise an entire family on $7.25 an hour, 40 hours a week. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would raise the rate nearly 50% higher, allowing those who cannot obtain high end jobs find a decent paying job with the doubled job market. If I needed to find a job immediately after college and couldn’t find one with my degree quite yet, any job would provide me the higher minimum wage and allow me to live off a more reasonable amount. There are arguments against this, saying that jobs such as fast food shouldn’t pay so much because of the low level of skill needed to work, but money is money. I believe the most important budget provisions are the $478 billion into repairing infrastructure and $70.7 billion into education. These provisions would make our roads and means of transportation safer, and allow students to go to community college for free to extend education after high school to an associates degree.

The budget proposal that is being imposed would help me tremendously with a lot f things that are going on. Well for starters,the doubling the number of job training workers and increasing minimum wage would cause people like me to have more money in my pocket an still keep up with paying bills on time. Not to mention that the unemployment rate would go down . The most important budget I think would have to be for education because that will be the most important thing. Parents these days have a hard enough time as it is to pay bills,finances,food,repairs an a whole lot more to keep their child in well safe environment. At the same time the students who be making grades in school an have more than a 2.5 GPA should get to be able to go to college regardless of financial status an personally if you got the grades for college they should be paying for you.

The president’s budget proposal would definitely affect me. For one, it would double the amount of jobs meaning it would be easier for me to find a job during and after college. Secondly, it would raise minimum wage to 10.10 making it easier to make a living if I I’m not certain of the career I wish to pursue. The clean energy initiative would also make my future better as well as my children’s. The budget for the Department of Agriculture may not directly affect my life but it will make my world a better place to live in. I believe that the community college budget is the most important. Education is the most important aspect of life, without education we have no doctors, no teachers, no society. Enabling underprivileged youth to get free community college is giving thousands of people to live to their full potential.

Most of the president’s budget proposal will end up affecting me in some way whether it be directly or indirectly; the $60 billion over ten years going toward making the first two years of community college free for some students will not affect me because I plan on going to a four year university rather than attending any community college. I believe that the most important budget provisions are the investments in clean energy technologies and the monies going towards job training programs. Over time the United States has worked vigorously to find different means of energy without spreading more harmful emissions and I believe that designating more money towards those projects and technologies will make the entire process move much faster. Giving more money to the Labor Department for job training programs can increase the abilities of the population and add to the productivity of our companies and eventually the economy.

Mainly all areas covered in the president’s budget proposal will positively affect my life. The only area covered in the president’s budget proposal that will not affect me will be 70.7 billion dollars put into education. This will not impact me because I plan to attend a four-year university not a community college, however, I do believe it is still a brilliant way to fund $70.7 billion. The budget provisions that I believe are most important are the Labor Department, Department of Transportation, and greenhouse gas emissions areas. These areas are important because there will be an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10, transportation will be safer, and investments in clean energy technologies will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent climate changes in our world.

The president's budget proposal would positively affect me in almost all of the areas, except for education and food regulation. Education, because it doesn't have any proposed benefits for potential 4 year college students and food regulation because there needs to be more focus on food-borne illness prevention. For the nation as a whole, I think the education, labor and transportation provisions will be most important. Making education cheaper and more accessible is a big priority, as well as increasing wages and improving infrastructure. Lastly, the clean energy provision could greatly benefit future generations while appeasing environmentalists.

Murrieta/ CA
Jabro/ Creekside High School
I think they shouldn't but we wouldn't know what do with it ourselves. It should more than a decision, it should be a process to make sure only things our society needs are what the money is being spent on. Rather than spending 40 billion on weapon's alone.

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