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Weekly Update: What I Hope to See in FY2020 President's Budget

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Washington, March 9, 2019 | comments
Weekly Update: What I Hope to See in FY2020 President's Budget
By Congressman Rob Wittman
March 9, 2019

Next week, President Trump is expected to release his budget for FY 2020. The President’s budget is only the first step in the annual budgeting and appropriations process but acts as a venue for the president to publish his policy objectives. And I’m sure you know, the Administration’s FY20 proposal is simply that - a proposal. Any changes in actual funding levels requires Congressional approval.

In anticipation of this document, there are several items I would like to see: strong investments in national security, increasing access to high-speed internet in rural areas, promoting a 21st century workforce, and protecting the natural resources that serve as economic drivers in our region. While I’ll be fighting for these priorities I know are important to the First District, the president has been clear about his intention to cut spending. I completely agree that we must rein in our current, out-of-control spending. The President’s Budget does not cover mandatory spending, but on the discretionary side it is important that we eliminate duplicative programs and cut back the scale of government spending.

Over the past two years, under President Trump, we have finally started to rebuild our military and combat our readiness crisis. As Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer described it recently: “We’ve laid the foundation and spent this money to get us going in the right direction. The bicycle is up, we are pedaling; please don’t knock us over.” Congress delivered for our service members the past two years in a bipartisan manner, and we must do so again. In particular, I would like to see funding set aside for a third attack submarine. Our current submarine fleet is shrinking at an alarming rate and increasing our build tempo would allow us to better counter our adversaries who are making large investments in their undersea capabilities.

Reports have surfaced recently that the Administration is considering prematurely retiring an aircraft carrier by canceling its midlife maintenance overhaul. Instead of striving towards the 12 carriers the Navy says it needs to meet our operational goals, a plan to retire an aircraft carrier would cause the carrier fleet to shrink in size from 11 to ten. We cannot allow this critical piece of the United States Naval Force to atrophy. Our ability to project airpower from the sea from anywhere in the world has been a powerful deterrent to rival nation states and is the cornerstone of U.S. naval power. Any attempt to delay the procurement of Ford-class carriers or maintenance timelines for Nimitz-class carriers is strategically and fiscally irresponsible. I hope that this provision is not included in the President’s Budget next week.

In his State of the Union address, President Trump emphasized the need for legislation to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, which would include expanding broadband access to unserved populations of the country. I could not agree more with the president’s comments. It is my hope that the president includes funding to help promote broadband investments and bridge the digital divide between urban and rural America. As Co-Chair of the Rural Broadband Caucus, I believe that with the coordination of Congress and the president, there is no better time than now to help bring millions of Americans off the sidelines.

I hope the president includes increased funding for Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) programs, as well as Career and Technical Education (CTE). This is the future, and it is critical that we do a better job preparing our students with the skills they will need to be successful in our 21st century workforce. That doesn’t mean just four-year degree programs; we need to be educating students on opportunities in trade and technical fields. This has been one of my top priorities and I will continue working with teachers, students, and businesses to bridge our current skills gap.

The Chesapeake Bay is critical to the environmental and economic health of our region and the Commonwealth. And we have seen the success of the Bay Program through cleaner water and more oysters and rockfish, which demonstrates that the federal and multi-state partnership to restore the Bay is working. In the past, we have seen cuts to this program and that is unacceptable. Severely reducing funding for this program would be shortsighted. This week, I introduced, along with several colleagues, a bill to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program for five years, as I believe without continued collaboration among stakeholders and federal support, progress in the Bay is threatened. We must ensure that the Bay remains an economic driver and environmental treasure for generations to come.

Again, this is just the first step in the budget process, there is still so much to be done before the end of the fiscal year. It is critical that we put the proper accountability checks in place to avoid a continuing resolution or possible shutdown. There is absolutely no reason we  should not be able to get a budget passed on time and finish all of our appropriations work by the end of the fiscal year.

I have three bills to achieve this: the No Budget No Pay Act that withholds Member pay if a budget isn’t passed by April 15, the Stay on Schedule Resolution that requires the House to stay in session through August – which many Members use as vacation – if all appropriations bills are not passed by the end of July, and finally the Inaction Has Consequences Act that withholds Member pay if all 12 appropriations bills are not done by the end of the fiscal year.

I look forward to this process getting under way and continuing to fight for First District priorities. 
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