One of the first steps in the annual federal budget process is the preparation of an overall framework to guide later congressional action on appropriations, revenues, and entitlements. This budget resolution includes about 20 categories of federal spending called budget functions.
This activity is undertaken by the House and Senate Budget Committees. Later this week these committees will start the preparation of their separate resolutions. The two resolutions will then be considered on the House and Senate floors.
This step, like other components of the budget process, does not always work as intended. The Senate last passed a budget resolution in 2009. A final compromise framework that both chambers would use, known as a concurrent budget resolution, has been and is expected to be difficult to achieve because of differing approaches the House Republican majority and the Senate Democratic majority take to taxes, spending, and entitlements.
The Budget Committees receive testimony from Members of Congress in the preparation of their resolutions. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) testified before the House Budget Committee about education and R&D last week. Foster is the new representative for Illinois’ 11th congressional district. He previously represented the 14th congressional district from March 2008 until January 2011, and was a high-energy physicist at Fermilab. Selections from Foster’s remarks before the committee follow:
“So, as this committee prepares its budget for FY 2014, I urge you to consider the differences between the fraction of investment that our country makes with the idea of maximizing economic growth, from the fraction of the investments our country makes because of the kind of people we are.
“There are things like military investments, taking care of our elderly, that do not have any economic return on investment, and yet we have to make these. There are other investments that we make because of the long-term and short-term economic growth.
“And so I’d like to highlight the importance of preserving our investments in the highest payoff activities that our government is involved in: namely, education and research and development. Both of these have obviously been severely threatened by the sequestration and other budget cuts that are talked about.
“My district in the Chicago area spans two great scientific centers: Argonne National Laboratory, and Fermilab -- Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, where I worked for 20 years. The economic impact of Argonne and Fermilab in Illinois is estimated to be more than $1.3 billion annually, and has historically, and will in the future, have enormous spin off benefits throughout our country.
“Projects in the pipeline at these labs hold even more promise for revitalizing our energy and manufacturing sectors. For example, the Argonne National Laboratory was recently selected for an award of $120 million over five years to establish a new batteries and energy storage hub, which is a very serious and well thought out effort, competitively bid and won by Argonne National Lab, in an effort to achieve revolutionary advances in battery performance. They are targeting battery improvements in excess of a factor of five, which will make battery driven cars a reality; an economic reality, as well as a theoretical one.
“This project, like many others, that could and will create new industries and support thousands of jobs, now faces an uncertain future. By some estimates, the cuts from sequestration to R&D will result in the loss of six hundred thousand jobs over the next three years. We’ll not only lose these near-term R&D jobs, we’ll see the ripple effects in communities and we’ll see the long term damage from a loss of economic competitiveness in our country.
“With wages as a record low percentage of the economy, it is not time to retreat or stop investing in American innovation, which supports high wage activities. We need to maintain this competitive advantage now and in the future.”