By Doug Hall
NORTHAMPTON — On Feb. 2, President Obama released a budget outline for fiscal year 2016 that should be widely popular with the American people. The $4 trillion proposal is only a starting point for lengthy budget negotiations in the Republican-controlled Congress; however, it does provide important detail about the president’s policy priorities.
Overall, this year’s proposal is a step in the right direction toward reflecting Americans’ priorities. For example: The proposal would increase education funding by 5 percent over 2015 levels, including $66 billion over 10 years for Preschool for All plus additional funding of $1 billion for Title I schools and $1.5 billion for Head Start in 2016.
Here in Massachusetts, a Head Start slot for a child costs $9,230 for one year. Imagine how many more children nation-wide could be served with an additional $1.5 billion.
In response to 74 percent of Americans who say the federal government should be doing a substantial amount to combat climate change, the president would invest $7.4 billion in clean energy technologies and $4 billion over 10 years to help states exceed planned reductions in carbon emissions.
In 2013, Massachusetts received $21 million in federal grants to develop renewable energy sources.
The sum of $478 billion over six years would be dedicated to infrastructure improvements to roads and bridges — especially welcome here in the Northeast where we’ve all experienced the deterioration of gaping potholes as the winter wears on.
President Obama’s budget is not everything we might want it to be — it also includes an astonishing $534 billion for the Department of Defense, the largest amount ever requested for the Pentagon, plus an additional $51 billion in war funding. Those dollars could certainly do a lot more to benefit our communities if reallocated to domestic investments here at home.
For the most part, though, Obama’s budget outlines policy priorities that are in line with what Americans have said we want for our nation, communities and families.
It remains to be seen how many of our people’s priorities will be preserved in the budget enacted by Congress.
Doug Hall is executive director of the National Priorities Project in Northampton.