Louisville, Kentucky - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the 36th annual legislative summit for the National Conference of States Legislatures (NCSL) this morning in Louisville. The NCSL summit brings together government officials, legislative staffers, and union and businesses representatives for policy discussions to improve the effectiveness of state legislatures. Below are the Speaker's remarks as prepared for delivery.
“Thank you, Senator Richard Moore. As a leader in Massachusetts' effort to provide universal health coverage, Senator Moore provided valuable insight as we drafted health care legislation. As President of NCSL, I know he will continue to be a strong voice for maintaining balance in the federal - state partnership.
“I would also like to thank Senator Don Balfour of Georgia for his service to America's states and commend him for bringing NCSL to a unified position on comprehensive immigration reform.
“I would like to acknowledge the California leaders here today: State House Speaker Pro Tem Fiona Ma; State Senator Gloria McCleod; and State Senator Mark DeSaulnier.
“I join you in paying tribute to your civic soldiers - serving our nation in its state legislatures and in uniform. Because of them, we are the land of the free and the home of the brave. Every chance we get, we must express our appreciation to our men and women who serve in uniform.
“Thank you to all the members of the National Conference of State Legislatures for the opportunity to join you today. I bring you greetings from the House of Representatives for a successful and productive legislative summit.
“We come together today at a crucial moment for our nation. It is a moment that calls for your leadership.
“To accomplish the shared goal of ‘Strong States, Strong Nation,' our nation's states and the federal government must engage in meaningful dialogue. Today, we have an opportunity to ensure that our partnership is strong, flexible, and open.
“Last year, I had the privilege of welcoming and meeting with state Speakers and Senate Presidents in the U.S. Capitol for a frank conversation.
“This year, I have come to you. Our conversations must be ongoing and based on the reality that the success of the states and your economies is essential to our nation's success.
“When we were last together, you spoke powerfully about the challenges you are facing, particularly during these tough economic times.
“Responding to the needs of America's states, we passed and implemented the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - which has created or saved as many as 3.6 million jobs so far. You know best what a difference the $87 billion in FMAP investments have meant to your states. And infrastructure investments have put your constituents to work upgrading highways, expanding airports, laying tracks for high speed rail, and deploying broadband.
“We are making progress but more needs to be done.
“In additions to the jobs created or saved by the Recovery Act, it was also essential that we extended unemployment benefits, which Congress passed and the President signed into law just last week.
“Unemployment benefits are not only important because they honor our compact with the American worker, but because they create jobs. Studies show that unemployment benefits, including health subsidies, support 1.7 million full-time jobs that would not exist without these investments.
“Additionally, the independent Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that extending unemployment benefits is the most efficient way for the government to generate economic growth - these dollars are spent quickly and in your communities.
“In these tough budgetary times, states have already made the hard choices of cutting spending and increasing revenue.
“I'm here today to talk about initiatives that have an impact upon the stability of your budgets, the economy of your states and the nation, and the well-being of the American people.
“They are initiatives that we have sent to the Senate, they are paid for, but they have not passed yet:
• Enhanced FMAP funding - paid for;
• And a comprehensive jobs bill - paid for;
• Assistance for teachers - paid for.
“And I'm here today to ask for your help, engage your activism, and call upon your advocacy.
“America's state legislators and governors have been clear that one of the best ways Congress can help the budgetary crises our states are facing is enhanced FMAP funding. That's because it is fungible and flexible.
“Enhanced FMAP has been both an opportunity and a challenge for you. When Congress included $87 billion in enhanced FMAP investments in the Recovery Act, it helped keep cops on the beat and teachers in the classroom and helped address the health needs of your constituents. Many of your state budgets have been predicated on continued enhanced FMAP funding.
“As you all know, the House passed an extension of FMAP last December in our comprehensive jobs bill. And now, FMAP is stalled in the Senate, even though it has a majority of support in that body. In order to pass, it must have bipartisan support.
“You are the most eloquent and persuasive voices on this subject; you know best why this is necessary. I urge you to tell Republicans in the Senate about the real cost to your communities of their opposition - cuts to hospitals, nursing homes, and public safety, elimination of domestic violence and homelessness initiatives, and slashed budgets for mental health and child welfare services.
“We will only be able to ensure an extension of enhanced FMAP funding with your strong advocacy. This will not happen without Republican support, and I welcome any suggestions you have to reach out to those Republican senators who oppose the efforts to extend enhanced FMAP. We must pass FMAP.
“In order to help teachers on the job, as you know, the House passed $10 billion in emergency funding to keep more than 140,000 teachers and administrators in their schools. And it was paid for.
“Now the Senate has stripped this funding out of the supplemental. We must figure out a path to get to 60 votes.
“This is about jobs for teachers, consumers for our economy, the education of our children; and America's future competitiveness.
“Another initiative to grow the economy is the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which the House passed in May. It would save or create more than 1 million American jobs, and it is paid for. Its provisions included restoring credit to small businesses, extending the R&D tax credit, rebuilding our nation's infrastructure with Build America Bonds, expanding youth jobs; extending jobs now in TANF, and providing tax relief for middle class American families.
“One way that it was paid for was by repealing tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas. But we can't move forward without Republican support in the Senate. Senate Republicans have already voted twice to obstruct progress on this legislation.
“America's state legislators: I call on your advocacy. Let's work together to point out what is at stake and ask the Senate to join us in creating American jobs.
“I'm here today to say thank you: the input of your members was essential to health insurance reform. And I know that many of you, but not all of you, supported the legislation.
“Now that health insurance reform is the law of the land, we must work together on implementation. As we move forward, we must ensure flexibility and consultation with our partners in state government.
“Now we must implement the law to lower costs, improve quality, and expand access and advance innovation and prevention.
“We all know that the system of health care in America was unsustainable for families, for small businesses, for the federal budget, for our economy and for our global competitiveness.
“The budget reconciliation bill that reformed health care also made the largest investment in affordability for higher education in our nation's history.
“This legislation reduced the cost of student loans, invests in Pell Grants, provides more than $2.5 billion for HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions; and sends hundreds of millions of dollars to community colleges, ensuring each state receives a share of the money.
“It does all of this and reduces the deficit by $19 billion.
“This week, you are considering a new initiative on Career and Technical Education - an essential component of job creation. We are proud that just last Monday, the House passed the SECTORS Act to bring together business owners, unions, educators, and workforce leaders to develop plans to train Americans in industries critical to our economic prosperity. Through this partnership, the bill aligns training initiatives with the demands of industry, links workers with employment opportunities, and equips them with the skills they need to compete, succeed, and thrive.
“This and other legislation are part of President Obama's initiative to stabilize the economy by creating jobs, lowering taxes for the middle class and reducing the deficit.
“More than putting people back to work, we must create more jobs through the pillars of stability: education, health care, and clean energy.
“We are moving forward with our Making It in America agenda and moving forward with a new energy policy that addresses the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and increases our competiveness.
“We've already seen the results of our efforts bear fruit: under President Obama and the Democratic Congress, more jobs will have been created in the first eight months of 2010 than in the previous eight years. The fact is that those eight years took us into a deep financial crisis, a deep recession, and deep deficits.
“It doesn't have to be that way. The last four budgets of the Clinton Administration were in balance. They had us on a path toward a record surplus of $5.6 trillion. That became a record deficit of $6.4 trillion which we must dig out of.
“We are making progress. We are not going back to the failed policies of the past.
“In all our efforts, we must be fiscally responsible. Since assuming the majority of Congress, we have made pay-as-you-go budgeting the rule of the House and the law of the land. We have passed a budget enforcement resolution that brings down the deficit. We have taken strong action to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse, reduced the number of earmarks, and made them more transparent. Our historic health insurance reform legislation cuts the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next two decades. And President Obama has created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
“You are experts in fiscal soundness because you face the special responsibility of having to balance your budgets.
“Indeed, you are experts in so many areas because you have to deal directly with the consequences of the difficult decisions you have to make.
“I come here today to ask you to help Congress help you by urging passage of FMAP and job bills. I come here today in the spirit of partnership: the challenges we face are too great for each of us to face alone, the opportunities are too enormous for us to be divided.
“With that in mind, let us move forward, strengthening our partnership, focusing on the next generation, not the next election. In so doing, we will realize the dream of a brighter tomorrow with ‘strong states, strong nation.'”