Yunji de Nies: Nobody wants to fire teachers or firefighters or police officers. But what about the Republican complaint that this is just kicking the can down the road, that this is essentially pressing the snooze button on a problem that is inevitable?
MR. BURTON: I guess we just disagree with the premise that we have to inevitably let 160,000 teachers go; that we have to make our streets less safe by taking cops and firefighters off of them; that we can't help out some of these states to keep these jobs and to keep our economy growing.
This was done in the most fiscally responsible of ways. It's all paid for, in part by ending foreign tax cuts. And the president's view is that we've got to do all we can to keep people in their jobs and keep our economy growing. That's our charge right now when we're in this economic mess.
de Nies: There are a number of Republican governors that we've spoken to today who say they may not take the money. What do you say to that?
MR. BURTON: I would say that they should take any assistance that they can get to keep teachers in their classrooms. This is bigger than an ideological fight. It's bigger than just right-and-left politics.
When it comes to teaching our kids, it's about making our nation competitive in the long term. The president's speech yesterday, I think, was very important on this point. The president's speech yesterday I think is very important on this point. We cannot have a situation where America is continuing to decline as it relates to math and science and all the other different aspects. If we aren't continuing to excel, if we aren't graduating kids from college, we are going to be out-competed in the future. And the president just doesn't think that that's — just doesn't think that's right.
de Nies: Do you foresee other sort of emergency injections of money like this down the line? I mean, at what point does it stop? There are other priorities that could be just as important as keeping kids
in school. I mean, at some point you have to say, okay, some fiscal responsibility here.
MR. BURTON: Well, yeah, of course the president is for fiscal responsibility, and that's why he did this in such a way that this is all paid for. This does not add to the deficit. And it's critically important that people understand that. This is — this is a common-sense measure that's going to keep people in their jobs, that's going to keep teachers in the classroom, and it's going to help our economy.
de Nies: At the expense of people who are receiving food stamps.
MR. BURTON: I'm sorry?
de Nies: Some of the money is coming from not fully funding food stamps.
MR. BURTON: Well, I think that, you know, when you look at how the — how the money's broken down and where it goes, this money is going to go to the people who are effected the most by this lagging economy. And the lion's share of how this is paid for is the foreign tax cuts that were eliminated.
Ann, did you have a follow up on that?
Ann Compton: I had a follow-up. If a state like Illinois still has $670 million of education stimulus money that it's been allotted that it hasn't spent, why doesn't it use that money before you have to give it more?
MR. BURTON: Well, a lot of these — what we did was we looked at what was the most responsible way to repurpose some of the stimulus money. And in this specific case, there was an opportunity to pay for part of what we're doing with that money. Now, the vast majority of the stimulus has already been spent.
It's either out the door, or it's allocated to a specific project, or it's going to go out in the form of a tax cut that people are going to get in their paycheck. We don't think that we should turn any of that around. We can't take one job-creation program and eliminate it at the — and create it at the expense of another that we're eliminating. We need to build on the progress that we're making.
So, in this case, we think that we've found the right formula to do this in the most fiscally responsible way.
Compton: Just the figures that Illinois still has $670 million, West Virginia has $274 million unspent in the education money that they've already been given.
MR. BURTON: I'm not necessarily disputing those numbers. I haven't seen specifically where those numbers come from.
Compton: Congressional offices.
MR. BURTON: But I will say that, you know, in this specific case, what we're concerned about — what we're focused on is making sure that this money is being spent in the most responsible way; that we are making sure that we're not eliminating some program at the expense of another.
So, like I said, I don't know where you got that specific number from. I don't necessarily doubt it. But what we need to do is make sure that we're not eliminating something just because maybe the money's still in the bank account, but it hasn't been spent on the specific program that it's allocated for, at the expense of another program.