Schatz Votes to Pass Budget to Protect Jobs in Hawai‘i

Working to Make Extending Unemployment Benefits First Order of Business in January, Protect Military Retiree Pay


Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz  (D-Hawai‘i) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate today about how the long-term budget will protect jobs in Hawai‘i and prevent another government shutdown.  Republicans blocked an amendment Schatz and Senate leaders requested to be introduced to the budget to extend long-term unemployment benefits.  Without an extension, 7,700 people in Hawai‘i will lose out on crucial benefits beginning on December 28th.

Schatz said Congress’s first priority in January must be extending these unemployment benefits retroactive to December.  Schatz also spoke about legislation he has helped introduce to protect military retiree pay from any cost-of-living adjustments in the budget.

Senator Schatz on the budget’s effects on Hawai‘i: “Without this budget agreement, there would have been an additional $20 billion in cuts to our defense programs, hitting next month.  Those defense cuts would disproportionately hurt my home state of Hawaii.  Without this budget agreement, 25,000 federal civilian workers in Hawai‘i would be furloughed or laid off.  Hawai‘i can’t afford that.  I voted for this budget to prevent those cuts.  The bipartisan budget agreement finally provides relief from the sequester and a path forward to get our economy on the right track.  Most importantly, the budget protects Social Security and Medicare benefits.”

Schatz on the need to extend unemployment benefits and protect military retiree pay: “Although this budget is the right choice for many reasons, we know it is not perfect.  And I do believe we can work together to improve parts of it.  I find it unacceptable and inexplicable that the House of Representatives left town for the holidays without extending long-term unemployment benefits.  We must make it a priority to extend them immediately in January.  We need to protect military retirees from the cost-of-living pay adjustment.  The cost-of-living pay adjustment won’t take effect until January, 2015 – so we have time to fix this issue, but we must fix this issue.  Our legislation will fully pay for the change by closing a loophole that some companies are using to avoid paying U.S. taxes with offshore tax havens.  This is a commonsense fix that I believe we can get bipartisan support for.  We need a long-term budget, but not at the expense of our military retirees.”

Senator Schatz’s full remarks on the budget, his work to renew Unemployment Benefits, and protect military retiree pay are below:

The budget agreement is an important step forward for our country and for our government.  I know Chairman Patty Murray worked tremendously hard to get to a conference in the first place and to reach this agreement with this House.  I commend Chairman Murray for all her work.

The United States government has been lurching from crisis to manufactured crisis and using short–term stop gaps to fund the government.  The threat of shutdown and lack of certainty has hurt our economy and it has eroded the American people's confidence in our ability to solve problems.  It is our job to produce a budget and to figure out a way to work together and not shut the government down.  That’s what the people expect of responsible leaders in a divided government.

This budget agreement is the way to move forward.  It ends the reckless threats of government shutdown and lays a clear path to end sequestration.  The sequester hit my home state of Hawai‘i very hard.  The across-the-board arbitrary cuts have been devastating to our middle-class families and to our economy.

I want to read a letter I received from a Professor at the University of Hawaii Manoa in September. This Professor wrote:

“I was contacted today, as I often am, by a student wanting to join our graduate program in the Department of Geology and Geophysics.  Unfortunately, I had to tell this student that funding for accepting new students is low right now, which may make it impossible for me to accept him as a graduate student, despite his excellent qualifications. This exchange reminded me that one source of this problem is the budget cuts to NSF (and other science funding agencies) that are the result of sequestration. The current situation is having the following impacts, which are happening right now at research centers nationwide, including UH Manoa:

-- Many scientific workers are being laid off or are not being hired - this includes individuals in Honolulu
-- Research groups are being forced to cut infrastructure that took decades to build-- Some scientific discoveries that could help our society are not being made-- Some bright young students are not being given opportunities to advance their scientific careers.

I think that this last point is the saddest result, because it negatively impacts the hopes and dreams of many young people.  Furthermore, these students are the future of our scientific workforce - people that will be leading us toward the innovation and problem-solving that is crucial to our country's future.”

This Professor urged me, and this Congress to do everything we can to roll back the sequester.  That is one of the many reasons why I supported the budget today.

 Sequestration caused federal workers to be furloughed or laid off throughout Hawaii.  Sequestration hurt our national defense, United States competitiveness and harmed education programs.  Head Start in Hawai‘i had to cut children from its programs just this year.  This early education program is critical to a young child’s success later in life.  Some of these kids and parents don’t have another option without Head Start.

Without this budget agreement, there would have been an additional $20 billion cut to our defense programs, hitting next month.  Those defense cuts would disproportionately hurt my home state of Hawai‘i.  Without this budget agreement, 25,000 federal civilian workers in Hawai‘i would be furloughed or laid off.  Hawai‘i can’t afford that.  I voted for this budget to prevent those cuts.

The bipartisan budget agreement finally provides relief from the sequester and a path forward to get our economy on the right track.  Most importantly, the budget protects Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Although this budget is the right choice for many reasons, we know it is not perfect.  And I do believe we can work together to improve parts of it.

I find it unacceptable and inexplicable that the House of Representatives left town for the holidays without extending long-term unemployment benefits.  And I know we are making it a priority to extend them immediately in January.

Senator Shaheen has introduced legislation, which I am proudly supporting, to protect military retirees from the cost-of-living pay adjustment.  The cost-of-living pay adjustment won’t take effect until January, 2015 – so we have time to fix this issue, but we must fix this issue.

This legislation will fully pay for the change by closing a loophole that some companies are using to avoid paying U.S. taxes with offshore tax havens.  This is a commonsense fix that I believe we can get bipartisan support for.  We need a long-term budget, but not at the expense of our military retirees.

We can replace the money raised by closing this tax loophole that some companies are abusing.  We have time to fix this issue and we must before it takes effect in 2015.

Now is the time to move the budget forward and protect jobs and give our country some economic certainty. 

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