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Letter: Federal budget cuts reveal strong disconnect

August 18, 2017
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Editor:

Last month, I had the privilege of attending the 2018 state budget signing at the Kent Intermediate School District’s Career Tech Center. The state budget will fund the Going Pro program, with more than $40.9 million. This line item includes funding of the Skilled Trades Training Funds — competitive grants that support Michigan businesses by ensuring workers have the skills needed for today’s high-demand jobs. We're optimistic that STTF funding will see an increase over last year's $15 million.

Additionally, Good Jobs for Michigan legislation, Senate Bills 242-244, passed. The legislation includes economic development and incentive tools that will enable Michigan to compete on a national level for larger projects that will create hundreds of new and good-paying jobs.

It's clear that our governor and state legislators place a high priority on creating jobs and a skilled workforce.

A recent analysis of the draft Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Funding House bill by the National Association of Workforce Boards tells a very different story. The bill includes deep cuts to funds related to workforce development:

  • Elimination of funding for apprenticeship programs (a $90M reduction)
  • Elimination of Employment Service Grants (a $671M reduction)
  • Reduction of adult allocations by $38.8M
  • Reduction of dislocated worker allocations by $5.3M
  • Reduction of youth allocations by $41.5M
  • Reduction of Job Corps by $16M
  • Reduction of the National Reserve account by $91M

Elimination of employment service grants, coupled with a reduction of adult, dislocated worker and youth allocations, will directly impact the Michigan Works! system’s ability to maintain a physical presence and a consistent level of service for the thousands of job seekers and employers that we serve.

Many of our region’s employers know firsthand the value of workforce training and its impact on their bottom line. Our governor gets the connection between jobs, a skilled workforce and a strong economy; it’s reflected in the state budget. Our West Michigan chambers of commerce get it; they, along with Michigan Works!, testified before the state legislature for the increase in training funds. Our regional economic developers get it; they were instrumental in passing the Good Jobs for Michigan legislation.

The president has recognized that there are millions of vacant jobs in the country and says he wants to get people back to work, but this budget says otherwise. With proposed program eliminations and reductions just shy of $1 billion, it would seriously undercut our system's ability to deliver workforce training in 2018.

Why the disconnect?

Time for action

At a recent Senate committee meeting with newly appointed U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Chairman Roy Blunt stated that cuts were so deep that “it is difficult to understand where your true priorities lie.”

Let us state very clearly our priorities so they can be reflected in the coming budget.

If you believe that a qualified workforce is the key to a strong local and national economy, please join us in communicating our opposition to these cuts. The following link will take you to a page where you can submit your name in support of a letter to legislators: westmiworks.org/2018-budget.

Jacob Maas
CEO
West Michigan Works!

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