March 09, 2010

Rep. Luján Advocates for New Mexico Priorities in Letter to Budget Committee


March 9, 2010

Luján Encourages Committee to Invest in Science, Math Education; Reject Efforts to Cut Social Security, Medicare

Washington, DC – Last week, Rep. Ben Ray Luján sent a letter to the House Committee on the Budget, outlining his priorities for the fiscal year 2011 budget. Rep. Luján urged the committee to make science and math funding a priority, encourage clean energy job growth, and protect Social Security and Medicare from the cuts proposed under the Republican alternative budget. Chairman John Spratt invited members to outline their priorities for the Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011.

“As our uncertain economic times continue, it is as important as ever that this Congress craft a fiscally responsible budget that invests in the our most urgent of priorities and the vision we share for the direction of our country,” said Rep. Luján. “For too long, our nation has been on the wrong track and has avoided confronting the realities of a changing world. Our fiscal year 2011 budget must honor the past commitments we have made to our seniors, our veterans, and our working families--while continuing to lay a foundation for a stable, secure, and prosperous future.”

In response to a budget proposal offered by House Republicans, Rep. Luján urged the Committee on the Budget to protect Social Security and Medicare.

“These concerns have been exacerbated by a recent budget proposal from House Republicans that would cut Social Security benefits and threaten Medicare. This proposal would put Social Security in the hands of the same Wall Street banks that plunged our economy into a recession by taking excessive risks and engaging in unscrupulous lending practices. My constituents are opposed to these efforts, and I believe that our budget should reflect the importance of keeping our promise to New Mexico’s seniors. Instead of endangering these programs and threatening benefit cuts, we must protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations. I urge you to reject the Republican efforts to radically reform Social Security and Medicare.”

FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER TO THE COMMITTEE ON THE BUDGET

Dear Chairman Spratt:

As our uncertain economic times continue, it is as important as ever that this Congress craft a fiscally responsible budget that invests in the our most urgent of priorities and the vision we all share for the direction of our country. For too long, our nation has been on the wrong track and has avoided confronting the realities of a changing world. Our fiscal year 2011 (FY11) budget must honor the past commitments we have made to our seniors, our veterans, and our working families--while continuing to lay a foundation for a stable, secure, and prosperous future.

With so many Americans seeking work, innovation, courage and a commitment to develop new technologies is critically important. Our ability to get our country’s economy back on track relies on our ability to change the way our country brings new ideas and businesses from the drawing board to the showroom floor. We must harness the incredible innovation of the great national laboratories in my home state of New Mexico. By directing investments towards the research and development projects taking place at the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, we will reap enormous benefits down the line. The Labs are working on new technologies that will make America safer, more energy-efficient, and environmentally sustainable. The technologies being developed at the Labs include new, more efficient methods to transport and store renewable electricity, green house gas emission verification technology, and the next generation of airport screening technology. We must invest in the Labs’ research capabilities as a source of jobs today and of innovation for the future.

If our goal is a stronger, better economy—education is how we get there. As global competition in the development of advanced technologies increases, our country risks losing its preeminence in the global community with respect to innovation in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering. As a Congressman from a minority-majority state, I see firsthand the severe shortage of Hispanics and Native American students in science, mathematics and engineering fields. The continuing under-representation of Hispanic and Native American students and the growing shortage of scientists, mathematicians and engineers require serious investment in the development of STEM education pipelines for minority communities. The higher education needs of our Native American and Hispanic students can be unique, and Tribal Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions provide vital educational opportunities for these under-represented communities. As you consider the FY11 Budget, I encourage you to support strong investments in our Nation’s STEM education programs and in our Tribal Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions.

In a difficult economy, it is more important than ever to train workers for careers in emerging industries – especially clean energy. With investments in clean energy, we can create new jobs in a variety of industries and get our economy back on track. I ask that you consider targeting funding toward investments in renewable energy production as well as energy efficiency initiatives that can grow the domestic clean energy industry. I urge you to consider providing funding to community college clean energy training programs in wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy sectors, and energy-efficient construction and retrofitting.

I understand the Office of Nuclear energy is currently being reorganized to focus primarily on closing the nuclear fuel cycle and developing advanced nuclear reactor technologies. I urge you to support the research and development of alternative solutions to waste storage to ensure a safe and environmentally sustainable long-term solution to managing the nation’s used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.

We must remember the unique needs of our returning veterans. About a third of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are estimated to have a serious mental-health problem such as depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As many as 7,000 New Mexico veterans are homeless. Many have lost their jobs after extended deployments and are forced to start over once they return home. They not only need the health care they are entitled to, but we need to provide them with access to higher education and job training as well as offer the resources to help them successfully reintegrate into their communities. In recognition of the service provided by our veterans, this Congress must generously support the Veterans’ Health Administration and the Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success.

Millions of Americans rely on Social Security and Medicare to make ends meet and to get the health care they need. Seniors in my district are concerned about the future of these programs. Last year, many contacted my office to express their frustration about the failure to include a cost of living adjustment for Social Security payments. Many of my colleagues also heard these concerns, and we responded by including a onetime Social Security payment under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Many of my constituents, however, remain concerned for the future of Social Security and Medicare.

These concerns have been exacerbated by a recent budget proposal from House Republicans that would cut Social Security benefits and threaten Medicare. This proposal would put Social Security in the hands of the same Wall Street banks that plunged our economy into a recession by taking excessive risks and engaging in unscrupulous lending practices. My constituents are opposed to these efforts, and I believe that our budget should reflect the importance of keeping our promise to New Mexico’s seniors. Instead of endangering these programs and threatening benefit cuts, we must protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations. I urge you to reject the Republican efforts to radically reform Social Security and Medicare.

I am confident that you will work to craft a budget that reflects a strong and prosperous vision for our country, and I encourage you to keep these priorities in mind in the coming months as you face difficult decisions regarding our budget. While making these considerations, we must also remember the need for fiscal responsibility, especially during these difficult economic times. The fiscal year 2011 budget can create progress with the right investments, and I urge you to keep these considerations in mind.

Respectfully submitted,

Ben Ray Luján

Member of Congress

# # #