Obama seeks more money for education, setting up showdown with Congress

Obama's budget plan would cut spending by $2.50 for every $1 in extra taxes it seeks.

The new budget that President Barack Obama is sending to Congress aims to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade by restraining government spending and raising taxes on the wealthy. To help a weak economy, however, Obama’s proposal requests modest increases in funding for education and transportation.

While administration officials on Feb. 12 defended the plan as a balanced approach, Republicans belittled the effort as a repeat of failed policies that does too little to attack soaring costs in programs such as Medicare and threatens growth by raising taxes. The debate is almost certain to go all the way to Election Day in November, with gridlock keeping Congress from resolving the spending debate until a lame-duck session at year’s end.

Obama’s budget plan, which he unveiled Feb. 13, would funnel new spending to areas he highlighted in his State of the Union speech.

Research and development for advanced manufacturing would see a 19-percent increase, to $2.2 billion. The budget seeks $30 billion to modernize at least 35,000 schools and $30 billion to help states hire teachers and police and firefighters—programs that Obama first proposed in his American Jobs Act last year. That bill died in Congress.

The president called for the creation of a $5 billion program that will challenge school districts and states to better train and recruit the teachers. His budget also seeks $300 million in new funding to improve child care and school preparation.

In addition, Obama wants community colleges and businesses to work together to train 2 million workers in high-growth industries, and he has requested $8 billion to create a new fund to encourage this effort.

For details about Obama’s $70 billion request for education funding, click here.

Obama’s plan, which he spelled out at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., is called the “Community College to Career Fund.” It would seek to train workers within areas such as health care, transportation, and advanced manufacturing, and the program would be administered by the Education and Labor departments.

For the president, the budget is another opportunity to try to position himself as a defender of the middle class, a leader willing to ask the wealthiest to pay more taxes and to use government spending to spur job growth. It gives a nod to the president’s call for “balanced” deficit reduction, while also aiming to preserve Democrats’ brand as guardians of the social safety net.

After a year in which the conversation was about “How much do we cut?” Obama’s budget will continue to try to shift to more politically advantageous questions: “Who should pay more?” and “What is fair?”

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