Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dave Obey stands up for Wisconsin's workers!

Early last week, President Bush vetoed a bill that financed education, health care and job training. On November 15th, Congress failed to get the two-thirds vote (277-141) needed to override the veto.

The $150.7 billion legislation would increase our nation's investment in education by$3.2 billion including an additional $25 million for the Carl Perkins Basic State Grant, one of the only sources of federal support for adult vocational education.

The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act provides federal grants to community colleges, including Wisconsin's technical colleges, and high schools to train students from low-income families for jobs. Educating these students is the key to solving the Wisconsin's growing shortage of skilled workers, broadly recognized as the biggest obstacle to the state's economic growth, as well as one strategy for tackling Milwaukee's high poverty rate.

At the Milwaukee Area Technical College(MATC), the state's largest two-year college with over 50,000 students and 125 associate degree and diplomma programs, Carl D. Perkins funds the bilingual, multicultural and special needs offices. Computer labs, academic support centers, pre-college instruction necessary for entry into skills training and English as a Second Language classes are also financed through this program.

In 2004, fully 32.3% of MATC's grads received services provided by Perkins while over 20% of all MATC students received support services and instruction through these funds.

Perkins was last reauthorized in 1998, and President Bush has repeatedly tried to kill the program. Last year, states received about $1.3 billion from the program, with about 40 percent going to two-year colleges. The proposed increase was the first in six years for this program whose real value (adjusted for inflation) has fallen to $950 million.

Wisconsin's David R. Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, nailed it when he denounced Mr. Bush for rejecting the bill:

“The same president who is asking us to spend another $200 billion on the misguided war in Iraq and is insisting on providing $60 billion in tax cuts next year to folks who make over a million bucks a year” is “now refusing to provide a $6 billion increase to crucial domestic investments in education, health care, medical research and worker protections,” Mr. Obey said.

In an editorial today the Journal Sentinel mischaracterizes President Bush's action by suggesting that his veto may have been based on a principled opposition to earmarks. If that was the case, he would never have signed similar bills laden with almost twice as many earmarks when his Republican allies controlled Congress.

The President is hiding behind fiscal responsibility to promote his costly agenda of high end tax cuts (1.6 trillion) and military adventurism (projected cost of $2 trillion).

Congressman Obey is right. We need to make strategic investments in the nation and Wisconsin's labor force. The education and training bill should be passed and Carl D. Perkins increased.

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