Opening Statement by RM Serrano at Hearing on Department of Commerce Budget Request
Thank you, Chairman Culberson, and I would like to join you in welcoming the Secretary of Commerce, the Honorable Wilbur Ross, to the subcommittee.
The Department of Commerce is vital in promoting job creation and opportunity for all. In doing so, it must make ensure that we have fair trade in which American workers are protected and well-compensated. As part of that effort, we must also make sure that other countries enforce labor laws and environmental regulations that help us combat climate change—the very things that undermine fair trade if not done correctly. In addition, the Department promotes sustainable development and improved standards of living by working in partnership with numerous stakeholders.
The President’s budget request for fiscal year 2018 includes $7.8 billion for the Department of Commerce, which is a $1.4 billion or 15 percent decrease from the 2017 enacted level. This level of funding endangers these core missions at the Department. This budget very foolishly eliminates vital agencies and zeroes out important programs. For example, it eliminates Economic Development Administration grants and the Minority Business Development Agency. EDA is the only agency across the federal government that focuses exclusively on economic development in economically distressed areas around the Nation. In addition, MBDA promotes the growth of minority-owned businesses and helps them compete in the world economy. I strongly oppose the elimination of these two agencies because it will hurt small businesses, workers, and economically distressed areas.
The President’s budget blueprint for FY 2018 also seeks to zero out funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, or MEP Program. It is estimated that for every one dollar of federal investment, the MEP national network generates $17.90 in new sales growth for manufacturers and $27 in new client investment. A survey by the Upjohn Institute in cooperation with the MEP Centers showed that the MEP program helped create and retain more than 80,000 jobs in 2015 alone. In short, this program enhances the productivity and competitiveness of small and medium-sized manufacturers and creates well-paying jobs while reducing our trade deficit with other countries.
In addition to these cuts, the Trump Administration proposes to zero out funding for various NOAA grants and programs that support coastal and marine management, research, and education benefitting industry, states, and local stakeholders. The Regional Coastal Resilience Grants, for instance, ensures our states and communities are prepared to face changing ocean conditions, from acidification to sea level rise, as well as major catastrophes. We need to make sure that we help our coastal communities remain resilient in the face of climate change and allow NOAA’s research programs to continue. This is necessary for America’s economic and environmental health.
With regard to the Census Bureau, as I stated at our hearing a couple of weeks ago with Director Thompson, the Bureau’s proposed funding level falls short of what is needed to help ramp-up ongoing preparations for both the 2020 Census and the other important surveys conducted by the Bureau. In fact, your requested total is actually $136.6 million below President Obama’s request for the previous fiscal year. Underfunding and delays in enactment of the Bureau’s budget have already had consequences, and I remain seriously concerned that the Bureau won’t be able to match the historic levels of compliance from the 2010 Census. This is a critical time for the Census Bureau, and the leadership vacuum, in combination with this budget request, imperils a successful decennial census.
These budgetary proposals, in total, represent a betrayal of many of the very individuals who voted for President Trump—individuals who reside in areas that are hurting economically and that are greatly helped by the programs this budget seeks to eliminate. However, I remain confident, Mr. Chairman, that we can work together in a bipartisan manner to maintain adequate funding levels for these vital agencies and programs.
Thank you once again, Secretary Ross, for joining us today and I look forward to discussing these important issues with you.