Education, Infrastructure Win in Obama Budget
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
The president made clear that he intends to invest in education by appearing at a Maryland middle school to announce the plan, which provides significantly more federal dollars to local schools than the last budget approved by Congress.
Among the most noteworthy line items for states is a $900 million investment in Race to the Top, the federal initiative that encourages states to overhaul their K-12 schools by doling out competitive grants to those that make the biggest and most important changes. Going forward, however, the program will target individual school districts, rather than states, according to The New York Times , which notes that the change "would make it possible, for instance, to channel money to Houston or other districts in Texas that wanted to compete in the Race to the Top initiative but could not because their state declined to participate."
With the nation's infrastructure rapidly deteriorating, Obama also wants Congress to pass a huge surface transportation bill that would spend $556 billion over six years on roads, bridges, high-speed rail and other priorities. The plan would spend money that many states have long sought for infrastructure, but it is not yet clear how Obama would pay for his proposal since he opposes an increase in the federal gas tax, as Reuters notes .
Among the components of the budget designed to win support from governors and state lawmakers is a provision that would give states time to shore up their badly underfunded unemployment systems. Dozens of states have borrowed billions of dollars from the federal government to pay for extended aid to the jobless, and Obama is proposing to defer the interest payments that now are coming due to help states avoid further cuts to their own budgets.
Other parts of the budget came as an unwelcome surprise to many states. Among the most criticized was a sharp cut in federal funds that help low-income families heat their homes. Obama also seeks to reduce funding for community grant programs that pay for local housing, sewers and streets, according to CNNMoney.com .
Individual states, meanwhile, saw a long list of positives and negatives in the budget proposal.
Car-producing Michigan, for example, would gain from $588 million in funding for automotive research and a plan to make a $7,500 tax credit for electric car buyers available as an immediate rebate instead, according to the Detroit Free Press .
With its many top-tier universities, Massachusetts would benefit from the plan's investments in clean energy research, though The Boston Globe notes that the proposals "calls for reducing federal subsidies for airline hubs like Logan International Airport," among a series of other spending reductions that would hurt Boston and the state.
Border states including Arizona and California would see funding decline for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which helps states and localities pay for the incarceration of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. California itself receives one-third of the national funding for the program, according to McClatchy Newspapers