Senators Collins and Cantwell Lead 40 Senators in Urging Budgeteers to Increase Funding for Workforce Training

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have marshaled the support of 40 Senators to urge the Senate Budget Committee to provide a "meaningful increase" in funding for workforce training programs to help workers obtain skills to maintain U.S. competitiveness in global labor markets. "We believe that investing in a skilled workforce is important to our nation’s economic growth, and training must be an important strategic element of our efforts to stimulate the economy. By cutting the workforce training programs, we are misplacing our priorities at a time when American workers are experiencing massive job losses," said the Senators in a letter to Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles (R-OK), and Ranking Member Kent Conrad (D-ND).

Congress overwhelming approved the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), which is now in its third year of implementation. This bipartisan legislation restructured that nation’s workforce training systems by consolidating more than 17 federal programs into one system for delivering employment and training services. To this end, WIA required the development of one-stop centers that offer a single point-of-entry for displaced workers seeking training and employment assistance. These programs have already been cut by over $600 million from fiscal year 2002 levels, and the Administration’s’s budget for fiscal year 2004 does not restore this amount.

Senators Collins and Cantwell, along with 40 of their colleagues, are asking the Budget Committee Chairman to ensure that the Fiscal Year 2004 budget resolution includes significant funding for WIA.

"Job training should be our first priority, not our last," Cantwell said. "In tough economic times, we should help workers who want help learning new skills, not cut the programs they depend on. The economy will improve when people start working again, and workforce training programs help that happen."

"Our nation’s economic recovery will largely be driven by our competitiveness in global labor markets and our quality American workforce," said Senator Collins. "I will fight to ensure that American workers have the tools and skills they need to lift our economy out of the doldrums."