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President Barack Obama recently unveiled an ambitious budget proposal for fiscal 2013. The president’s plan includes $3.8 trillion in proposed spending and $4 trillion in deficit reduction, with the promise that by 2018, the federal deficit will be less than 3 percent of GDP.
The proposal, which surely will be modified by Congress, offers some valuable insight into the president’s priorities, and the areas where his administration will be focused should he be re-elected.
Let’s start with some good news. Our region’s economy is slowly getting back on track, but we often hear that employers are struggling to find the highly skilled workers they need. So the president’s $8 billion that would encourage businesses and community colleges to work together to train 2 million workers for high-growth industries will surely be a boon for our region.
Also on the higher education front, the Obama budget offers several measures to make college more affordable, which again will help ensure that we have the trained work force we need here in New England. The president’s budget increases the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,635, makes permanent a tax credit for college costs, and sets forth reforms to help address rising education costs by rewarding states and colleges that keep costs under control with a larger share of federal aid.
New England long has been a center of innovation, and such sectors as advanced manufacturing hold great potential for job growth. It is encouraging to hear that the president’s proposal includes $140.8 billion for research and development, increasing the level of investment in nondefense R&D by 5 percent from the previous year’s level. The proposal also expands and makes permanent the R&D tax credit and includes $2.2 billion specifically for advanced-manufacturing R&D.
Another bright spot for New England: the president’s plan would fund a six-year, $476 billion surface-transportation reauthorization bill. New England is burdened with some of the oldest transportation infrastructure in the country, and this funding would provide for much-needed upgrades, while creating thousands of jobs. President Obama’s proposal also creates a National Infrastructure Bank to fund projects of national importance.