Friday, April 8, 2011

Obama: 'The Washington Monument, as Well as the Entire Federal Government, Will Be Open for Business'

Government Avoids Shutdown in Final Minutes



Blue Room

11:04 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Behind me, through the window, you can see the Washington Monument, visited each year by hundreds of thousands from around the world. The people who travel here come to learn about our history and to be inspired by the example of our democracy -- a place where citizens of different backgrounds and beliefs can still come together as one nation.

Tomorrow, I’m pleased to announce that the Washington Monument, as well as the entire federal government, will be open for business. And that's because today Americans of different beliefs came together again.

In the final hours before our government would have been forced to shut down, leaders in both parties reached an agreement that will allow our small businesses to get the loans they need, our families to get the mortgages they applied for, and hundreds of thousands of Americans to show up at work and take home their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform.

This agreement between Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that.

Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful. Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances.

But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs -- investments in our kids’ education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future.

At the same time, we also made sure that at the end of the day, this was a debate about spending cuts, not social issues like women’s health and the protection of our air and water. These are important issues that deserve discussion, just not during a debate about our budget.

I want to think Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid for their leadership and their dedication during this process. A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now the same cooperation will make possible the biggest annual spending cut in history, and it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead, from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our deficit. That's what the American people expect us to do. That's why they sent us here.

A few days ago, I received a letter from a mother in Longmont, Colorado. Over the year, her son’s eighth grade class saved up money and worked on projects so that next week they could take a class trip to Washington, D.C. They even have an appointment to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The mother wrote that for the last few days the kids in her son’s class had been worried and upset that they might have to cancel their trip because of a shutdown. She asked those of us in Washington to get past our petty grievances and make things right. And she said, “Remember, the future of this country is not for us. It’s for our children.”

Today we acted on behalf of our children’s future. And next week, when 50 eighth graders from Colorado arrive in our nation’s capital, I hope they get a chance to look up at the Washington Monument and feel the sense of pride and possibility that defines America -- a land of many that has always found a way to move forward as one.

Thank you.

END 11:08 P.M. EDT

NYS Senate Passes FY 2011-2012 Budget

New York State Senate Chamber

Addabbo: "On-Time Budget Has Tough Cuts, Required Tough Choices"

The New York State Senate has passed the FY 2011-12 Budget, which has been signed by Governor Cuomo.

"The severity of the economic challenges facing New York demanded a new direction, a new beginning to ease the burden on middle class families and lead our state back to fiscal prosperity all New Yorkers can enjoy," said New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr.

"Now that the budget is complete, we hope the spirit of bipartisanship we have seen to pass an on-time budget will continue and the promises we all made will be kept."

"Our budget made the tough cuts and tough choices for all New Yorkers, in order to find the common ground and bipartisan solutions to the crisis we all face. These were not easy choices, but neither are the choices facing families across the state. And we have to balance our checkbook like those families," Addabbo noted.

"Bottom line: we can’t spend more than we have and we can’t shift the burden to taxpayers nor can we borrow any money that adds to the deficit."


GENERAL THEME: A Tough Budget for Tough Times and a Vision for the Future:

· New York State has reached a crossroads. We need good-paying jobs, smart economic development, a strong investment in vital services like education and health care, and efficient government that steers taxpayer dollars to the needs of the people.

· This was a tough budget for tough times, and so we tough choices that set the table for the kind of state government our families deserve and Albany needs.

· The severity of the economic challenges facing New York demanded a new direction, a new beginning to ease the burden on families and lead our state back to fiscal prosperity all New Yorkers can enjoy.

· As we move into the remainder of this legislative session, we must work in a bipartisan manner to pass an ethics package that restores faith in the Legislature, a nonpartisal independent redistricting process, and an extension and expansion of rent regulations to protect the tenants in our communities.


· This year’s budget is $132.5 billion and will reduce wasteful spending overall by over 2 percent from the current year.

· There are no new taxes and no borrowing.

· It eliminates a $10 billion deficit, one of the largest deficits in the state’s history.

· The budget includes an approximate $3.6 billion decrease in year-to-year spending.

· We passed an on-time budget, thus avoiding both the shutdown of state government and the drastic, extreme proposed cuts in the Governor’s Executive Budget.

· This budget will establish regional economic development councils, bring performance funding to education, redesign Medicaid, and cap next year’s education and Medicaid spending.

- The budget reduces the size and cost of government, by authorizing Governor Cuomo’s Spending and Government Efficiency Commission to reduce the number of agencies and commissions making our government more efficient.

· The state budget includes your tax dollars and it is my obligation to explain it to you. If after reading these budget points, you have any questions, please call me at my district office.

HIGHLIGHTS (Some of the Good Parts):

· Governor Cuomo deserves credit for exercising strong leadership, and helping to usher in a new dynamic to the budget process that delivered an on-time budget for the people of New York.

· The budget we passed did not raise taxes, reduced spending to meet the demands of these difficult times, and consolidated agencies to deliver a government that works better and costs less.

· We restructured the budget process to radically reform how we spend taxpayer dollars to change the flawed ways of the past and better prepare for New York’s future.

· By rethinking the way Albany does business, we passed a responsible budget that creates good-paying jobs, reduces the tax burden and makes New York more affordable, while investing in key services families rely on.

· We were able to partner with our colleagues in the Legislature to win restorations for critical services, including Title XX funding for seniors, funding for education aid, funding for schools for the deaf and blind, summer school programs, funding for SUNY and CUNY, while protecting veterans programs

LOWLIGHTS (Some of the Bad Parts):

· This was a hard budget and hard choices needed to be made, but we must keep our eyes wide open to how those choices will impact families and the working poor.

· This budget did not raise taxes. Many legislators had hoped it did not give a tax break to true millionaires – 70,000 people making over $1 million dollars – at a time when over 3 million school children face deep cuts.

· We were successful making some education restorations, but I fear the education restorations didn’t go far enough – sacrificing the promise of tomorrow by delaying the fulfillment of the promise of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

· The budget reduced spending and we even restored vital funding for human services like Title XX senior centers and summer youth employment. But I wish the budget was more successful at cutting with care, so it would be balanced in line with our values to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

· NYC will lose about $300 million due to the elimination of AIM (Aid and Incentives for Municipalities) funding.

· The budget included cuts to library funding.


· Overall appropriations for education are $19.6 billion statewide.

· The budget provides a two-year funding plan and has permanent law changes to limit future school aid increases to growth in the New York State personal income rate, which will help reduce the state’s large gap between spending and revenues.

· The Legislature restored $270 million in education cuts originally proposed in the Executive budget, including $51 million to NYC schools. NYC school aid in the budget is approximately $7 billion.

· Funding for 4201 schools for the deaf and blind is fully restored, as is funding for summer school programs.

· Moving forward, education will be increased at a rate of personal income growth next year—roughly 4 percent.

· There is a 10 percent reduction to higher education, including SUNY and CUNY

· The budget funds SUNY and CUNY senior colleges at about $2 billion and $1.3 billion in new capital appropriations.

· There are no tuition increases in this budget.


· Total Medicaid spending including federal, state and local spending of $52.6 billion represents a decrease of $337 million.

· This includes a cap of $15.3 billion on Department of Health Medicaid state expenditures.


· Medicaid will be increased at a rate tied to healthcare CPI, which is roughly 4 percent.

· The budget includes a cap on State Medicaid expenditures of approximately $15 billion and implementation of the majority of recommendations by the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) to redesign and restructure the Medicaid program to be more efficient and get better results for patients.

· EPIC funding is increased by $22 million.

· The MRT reduction of $2.8 billion and the overall spending cap to the state will be enforced by the Department of Health’s “superpower” provision, whereby the commissioner has authority to make reductions during the year to enforce the cap.


Regional Economic Development Councils

· This budget establishes 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy.

· These councils will create a region-based approach to allocate economic development funds to speed up the creation of jobs.

· They will act as one-stop shops for all State-supported economic development and business assistance programs in each region, and will be supported with $130 million in capital that is reprogrammed from existing resources.

Recharge New York

· Recharge New York will enhance and make permanent the current Power for Jobs Program that will significantly boost the state’s economy by creating and maintaining hundreds of thousands of jobs.

· Recharge New York will improve upon the existing program by opening it to new participants and allocating a blend of stable, low-cost hydropower and market power for use by businesses that seek to grow and create jobs in New York State.

Strengthening Excelsior

· A total of $500 million will now be available annually to provide enhanced tax credits that will produce better results for New York’s economy.

· Businesses will be able to benefit from this program over a 10-year period.

· The Governor will make $70 million of these enhanced tax credits available to support the efforts of Regional Economic Development Councils.


· Transportation spending from all sources will total $8.5 billion under this budget.

· The budget provides operating support to transit systems totaling $4.2 billion.

· The MTA will receive $3.8 billion.

· The budget provides for an adopted two-year DOT transportation capital plan that balances core infrastructure preservation with fiscal necessity and continues prior year funding levels for the core transportation programs supported by the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund, including:

- $501 million of Dedicated Funding for State roads and bridge construction (part of a

$1.8 billion construction program)

- $363.1 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS)

- $16.9 million for Amtrak services and additional rail capital investments.


· The budget maintains the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at the 2010-11 funding level of $134 million.


· The budget maintains funding for veteran services, housing programs, hospitals and cemetery care.



· We must work to reach an agreement with the Assembly on property tax and mandate relief to ease the burden on families and reduce the strain on local governments that threaten key services.


· We must pass an ethics package that restores faith in the Legislature and gives New Yorkers a reason to believe in a New York where anything is possible.

· After breaking their promise to support independent redistricting, the Senate GOP must reverse course and work with us to keep the promise they made and pass a non-partisan redistricting bill to take the politics out of drawing electoral lines.


· The expiration of rent regulation laws pose a direct threat to the economic security and well-being of millions of tenants throughout New York City.

Photo source:
Library of Congress
Permission: Public Domain

Six Public High Schools Selected to Compete for Presidential Commencement Address

White House, DOE Announce 2011 'Race to the Top' High School Commencement Challenge Finalists

WASHINGTON – Today, the White House and the U.S. Department of Education announced the six high schools selected as finalists for this year’s Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. As part of the next step of the Commencement Challenge, the Get Schooled Foundation will now work with each school to produce a video for the online voting portion of the challenge.

The President set a goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 and the Commencement Challenge invited the nation’s public high schools to submit applications that demonstrate their commitment to preparing students for college and a career. Hundreds of applications were received and were judged based on the schools’ performance, essay questions and supplemental data. The six finalists were selected for their creativity in engaging and supporting students, academic results, and progress in preparing students to graduate college and career ready.

This year's finalists include Bridgeport High School (Bridgeport, Washington),Wayne Early Middle College High School (Goldsboro, North Carolina), Booker T. Washington High School (Memphis, Tennessee), Science Park High School (Newark, New Jersey), Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, School for Creative and Performing Arts (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), and High Tech High International (San Diego, California).

“I want to congratulate the six finalists for all they’ve done to prepare their students for college and careers, and I want to thank all of the schools that applied,” said President Obama.

“I look forward to meeting the students and teachers of the winning school at their commencement.”

“I am humbled by the hundreds of extraordinary applications we received this year and more importantly, by the tremendous work our nation’s public high schools are doing to ensure that our students are graduating ready to go on to college and careers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“The Challenge continues to be a wonderful opportunity to share stories of success from our nation’s public high schools and put a spotlight on the tough and exceptional work they do every day.”

Over the next few weeks, each school’s students will work with The Get Schooled Foundation, which includes Viacom among its founding partners, to create a short video highlighting how the school best fulfills the Challenge’s criteria. The six videos, along with portions of each school’s written application, will be featured on the White House website in the coming weeks and the public will have an opportunity to vote for the three schools they think best meet the President’s goal. The President will select a national winner from these three finalists and will visit the winning high school to deliver the commencement later this spring.

“Providing support for students across the country is essential to ensuring the long-term competitiveness of our future workforce. At Viacom, we are proud to use our powerful brands as a platform to motivate our audiences to get involved in their local communities to help improve education. Viacom and The Get Schooled Foundation are very pleased to work with the White House again on this important initiative,” said Carl Folta, Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications, Viacom.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

UPDATE: Federal Budget Talks Still At Impasse



James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

9:33 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: I just completed another meeting with Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid, and I wanted to report again to the American people that we made some additional progress this evening. I think the staffs of both the House and the Senate, as well as the White House staff, have been working very hard to try to narrow the differences. We made some progress today. Those differences have been narrowed. And so once again the staff is going to be working tonight around the clock in order to see if we can finally close a deal.

But there is still a few issues that are outstanding. They’re difficult issues. They’re important to both sides. And so I’m not yet prepared to express wild optimism. But I think we are further along today than we were yesterday.

I want to reiterate to people why this is so important. We’re now less than 30 hours away from the government shutting down. That means, first of all, 800,000 families -- our neighbors, our friends, who are working hard all across the country in a whole variety of functions -- they suddenly are not allowed to come to work. It also means that they’re not getting a paycheck. That obviously has a tremendous impact.

You then have millions more people who end up being impacted because they’re not getting the services from the federal government that are important to them. So small businesses aren’t seeing their loans processed. Folks who want to get a mortgage through the FHA may not be able to get it, and obviously that’s not good as weak as this housing market is. You’ve got people who are trying to get a passport for a trip that they’ve been planning for a long time -- they may not be able to do that. So millions more people will be significantly inconvenienced; in some ways, they may end up actually seeing money lost or opportunities lost because of a government shutdown.

And then finally, there’s going to be an effect on the economy overall. Earlier today one of our nation’s top economists said -- and I’m quoting here -- “The economic damage from a government shutdown would mount very quickly. And the longer it dragged on, the greater the odds of a renewed recession.”

We’ve been working very hard over the last two years to get this economy back on its feet. We’ve now seen 13 months of job growth; a hundred -- 1.8 million new jobs. We had the best report, jobs report, that we’d seen in a very long time just this past Friday. For us to go backwards because Washington couldn’t get its act together is unacceptable.

So, again: 800,000 federal workers and their families impacted; millions of people who are reliant on government services not getting those services -- businesses, farmers, veterans; and finally, overall impact on the economy that could end up severely hampering our recovery and our ability to put people back to work.

That’s what’s at stake. That’s why it’s important to the American people. That’s why I’m expecting that as a consequence of the good work that’s done by our staffs tonight, that we can reach an agreement tomorrow.

But let me just point out one last thing. What I’ve said to the Speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning. And my hope is, is that I’ll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted, that a deal has been completed that has very meaningful cuts in a wide variety of categories, that helps us move in the direction of living within our means, but preserves our investments in things like education and innovation, research, that are going to be important for our long-term competitiveness.

That’s what I hope to be able to announce tomorrow. There’s no certainty yet, but I expect an answer sometime early in the day.

All right. Thank you very much, everybody.

END 9:38 P.M. EDT

Michelle Obama: 'My Husband and I Are Proud of You - Very Proud!'



Ritz Carlton Pentagon City

Arlington, Virginia

6:04 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you so much. Please sit down. Thank you. And good evening, everyone. Let me tell you, it is a pleasure and an honor to be here tonight for the 2011 Military Child of the Year Award. These aren’t children, they’re young adults, but, you know, we know the difference.

I want to start by thanking Jim for that very kind introduction and for his leadership as CEO of Operation Homefront.

I also want to recognize the leaders from each of our services who are here tonight to present these awards: General Schwartz, General Dunford, Admiral Greenert, Lieutenant General William Troy, and Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara. Thank you all for your leadership and for your continued commitment to the families.

I also want to thank my partners in these efforts, some of them who are here: Deborah Mullen, Bonnie Amos, Susan Schwartz, and all of the other spouses who have been so supportive to me and to Jill. They have been partners with us every step of the way, and I love them like they are sisters. But I want to commend them for their championship, for their leadership for military families. Let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to thank everyone at Operation Homefront for the vital work that you all are doing for military families across the country, including hosting this beautiful event for the five outstanding young people that we’re honoring tonight.

As First Lady, I’ve had the privilege of welcoming the 2009 and 2010 Military Children of the Year Award recipients to the White House. I’ve had the chance to get to know those young people and to meet and know their families, and to be inspired by their sacrifice and their spirit and their strength.

And I’ve seen them up close. I’ve been proud to share their stories with people that I meet all across our country. And that’s why I wanted to be here tonight to be a part of honoring the five of you all, our 2011 Military Children of the Year.

Now, each of you young people already knows that your families are proud of you. You know that your communities are proud of you. Your parents’ services are proud of you. But tonight I want you to know that my husband and I are proud of you -- very proud.

We’re proud because we know about your strength and your resilience and your spirit. We know about your achievements in school -- they’re amazing. We know about the countless hours you’ve spent volunteering in your communities and caring for your families.

And I’m here tonight because I want our country to know about you all as well. I want our country to know about the five of you and about all the military kids and families all across this country.

Most folks in this country are already aware of the incredible sacrifices that your parents are making. We’re already in awe of our men and women in uniform. But we often lose sight of the fact that our Armed Forces is largely a force of families.

More than half of our active duty troops are married. And there are nearly 2 million American military children. And a lot of folks don’t realize that when our troops are called to serve, their families serve, too. A lot of folks simply don’t know the stories of our military families and their kids. They don’t know what it’s like to kiss Mom or Dad goodbye as they head off to war, and then have to go back to class, and do homework, and act like everything is fine.

They don’t know about all the missed soccer games and the missed prom nights and the missed shared daily moments -- the hugs, the bedtime stories, the meals with an empty seat at the table. They don’t know that every day, military kids are stepping up and helping to run the household and care for their families.

That’s what Nicole Goetz has been doing. When her little brother is feeling down, Nicole is the one who takes him to the movies and cheers him up. When he needs help with his homework, Nicole is the one who tutors him. And somehow, she’s managed to perform 500 hours of community service, earn a 4.0 GPA -- right about that? -- do all kinds of activities at school, and work a job as well. Sheesh. (Laughter.) You must be tired.

And I understand that Nicole’s dad, who I got to meet, Chief Master Sergeant Michael Goetz, has come all the way from Afghanistan to see Nicole get this award today. So let’s give him a round of applause. (Applause.)

And let’s remember that our military kids aren’t just shouldering extra responsibilities when their parents are deployed. They often continue to do so once Mom or Dad returns home, and everyone has to readjust and reconnect as a family figures out how to come together after those months away. And when a parent comes home wounded, the result can be a real role reversal. It can mean taking care of Mom or Dad who once took care of you; taking on responsibilities that would be overwhelming for most adults, let alone for most kids.

And that’s what Taylor Dahl-Sims -- Taylor, where’d you go? There you go. That’s what she did.

Now, Taylor already had plenty of experience with adult responsibilities. Her new baby brother was seriously injured at birth, and her house was flooded I think at the same time, all while her stepfather was on his fifth deployment.

So Taylor helped care for the baby. She helped clean up the house. And when her stepfather returned home with traumatic brain injury, going in and out of the hospital for most of that year, she stepped up again to help hold everything together.

So when we talk about service to our country, when we talk about all that sacrifice for a cause, when we talk about patriotism and courage and resilience, we’re not just talking about our troops and our veterans. We’re talking about our military families as well. We’re talking about military kids like the young people that we’re honoring here tonight. They play their own very unique role in keeping our country safe and preserving the freedoms that we all hold dear.

Their strength and support helps our troops serve and protect every last one of us. So I think it’s time for every last one of us to step up and show our gratitude for our military families. And that’s why, for the past two years, I’ve traveled this country meeting with military families and working to raise awareness of the incredible contributions that these families are making, and it’s why next week Jill Biden and I are launching a new nationwide campaign calling on every single American to honor, recognize, and support our military families. And our message is very clear: It’s that every American has the ability -- and the obligation -- to give something back to our military families.

Everybody can do something. Schools can work to better meet the needs of military kids. Businesses can make an effort to hire military spouses. Ordinary citizens can do something as simple as offering to shovel the snow, babysit, organize events in their communities to celebrate these families.

And in the coming months, Jill Biden and I will be traveling the country -- Jill’s a Blue Star mom herself -- and we’ll be highlighting the best businesses and nonprofits and community efforts, and we’re going to be doing everything that we can to tell the stories of our military families. And I think we could learn a thing or two from a couple of our honorees tonight.

Kyle Hoeye -- there’s Kyle right there, quite handsome young man -- (laughter) -- he’s taught hundreds of his peers how to make videos educating non-military kids about the challenges faced by military kids. He also speaks publicly about his own experiences as a military kid and works with his school’s Key Club to send personalized care packages to troops overseas.

Margaret Rochon -- Margaret, where did you go? There you go, there’s Margaret. She singlehandedly convinced six nationally recognized experts to come lead a seminar for teachers about the effects of PTSD on military families. And it was so successful that it’s now a yearly training requirement for all the teachers in her county. And by the way, Margaret also managed to find time to volunteer more than 500 hours in the community herself.

So when you think about everything that tonight’s honorees have done with their lives, you can’t help but begin to think twice about the title of this award, because while these five Military Children of the Year might be young people, they’ve each shown maturity and grace and wisdom far beyond their years.

And that’s certainly true of our last honoree, Melissa, Melissa Howland. There’s Melissa right there. Now, she was diagnosed with a serious blood disorder and hospitalized several times while her dad was deployed. And because of her illness, she had to quit the basketball team -- an activity that she loved. But instead of sitting around feeling sorry for herself, she decided -- and these are her words -- “You can’t go wrong giving back.” She then went on to volunteer nearly 500 hours for a dozen different causes.

So in the end, while our five honorees come from different places and they’ve taken different journeys to this moment, it’s clear that they share the same ethic of service that led their parents to enlist in our Armed Forces in the first place. It’s clear that they share the same desire to help others, to serve their country, and to do something meaningful with their time on this earth.

And tonight, let me tell you, I am proud and I am honored to be here to congratulate them and to thank them for all that they have contributed to their communities and to our nation. We are really, really amazed by everything you all are doing. And again, we want this country to know your stories. We want you to be shining examples to all other young people of how much you can get done with a little will, a little passion, and a little determination.

So you all keep doing what you’re doing, and we will keep supporting you. God bless you all. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

END 6:17 P.M. EDT