Equity: just and fair inclusion into a society where all can reach their full potential.
President Obama's $4 trillion proposed budget, which he delivered to Congress this week, includes elements that move the nation closer to achieving equity. In its focus on place-based strategies to develop, improve, and sustain the communities where people live, in the tax-based efforts to relieve burdens and provide supports to working families, and in the commitment to rebuilding the nation's infrastructur—creating new jobs in the process—the President's budget reflects the words he spoke during his State of the Union address: "Expanding opportunity works...this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot."
Many of the programs in the FY 2016 budget are essential to ensuring opportunity for all. The millions of people searching for good-paying jobs will be aided by the creation of work supported through public/private investment funds, enhanced educational opportunities at the community college level, and the $478 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal to improve the nation's infrastructure, which—while creating new jobs—will also improve roads, bridges, and transit systems that are critical for connecting struggling local economies to opportunity.
People of color and residents of low-income communities will also benefit from big investments in clean energy and the jobs those investments will produce. The expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) will put more money in the pockets of low-to-moderate income individuals and families and improve overall financial security for over 13.2 million workers, boosting wages for 16 million families with 29 million children.
Just as these programs provide support enabling low-income working families to succeed, others like Choice Neighborhoods— in the budget at $250 million; Promise Neighborhoods—at $150 million; and the Healthy Food Financing Initiative—nearly $50 million in combined grants from two government agencies—can enhance places, bringing much-needed opportunities, health and well-being, and services to communities too often left behind.
Promise Zone tax incentives to stimulate growth and investments in targeted communities are proposed again in this budget. A new initiative would support innovation to help families reach the middle class. The Upward Mobility Project would allow selected communities to combine funds from existing block grant programs to test and validate promising approaches to help families become more self-sufficient, improve children's outcomes, and revitalize communities so they can provide more opportunities for their residents.
The President's budget could make significant differences in the lives of working Americans, and those struggling to work, especially those who are of color. With its subtext of building an all-in economy, where opportunity exists and everyone can realize their potential, it is one that will be debated and challenged.
Resources to propel us to a more equitable future will be a challenge, but one that we must pursue. The FY 2016 budget lifts up this nation's best values and honors the goal of realizing a just and fair future for all: equity.