WASHINGTON — From stepped-up policing of garment plants and other low-wage workplaces to greater promotion of exports in emerging markets, the Clinton administration’s $1.6 trillion budget proposed Monday contains several provisions that would affect apparel manufacturers and retailers.
Some others include:
Speeding the flow of goods over U.S. borders, with improvements to be funded by a fee for cars entering the country.
Giving certain families tax credits of up to $500 per child, which could help boost consumer spending.
Eliminating funding for certain textile and apparel industry research programs.
How many of these proposals will become realities is questionable. The package got a cool reception on Capitol Hill, with Republicans openly blasting it, and Democrats offering tempered criticism, primarily because it doesn’t go far enough in cutting spending.
“While this budget is not dead on arrival, it surely is on life support,” said Sen. Pete Domenici (R., N.M.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
As part of its budget request, the administration recommended adding 202 employees to the 800 members of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, which polices garment contractors’ sewing shops and other low-wage facilities for federal minimum wage and overtime violations.
The additional $10.7 million in personnel and costs is part of a broader immigration enforcement initiative the administration is scheduled to unveil today. The program will also include more vigorous policing of workplaces by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
While the Labor Department for more than two years has been targeting low-wage industries for payroll violations, this is the first time its efforts have been promoted as part of an immigration enforcement plan. According to Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who spoke at a briefing, eliminating sub-minimum wages will remove the incentive for hiring undocumented workers.
Although President Clinton’s stated goal with the budget was to increase the standard of living for middle-class Americans, the fiscal blueprint would have negligible impact on short-term economic growth, according to various economists, including Laura D’Andrea Tyson, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, who spoke at a briefing Monday. The budget request includes $63 billion over five years to fund a Middle Class Bill of Rights, providing such breaks as tax credits for families with young children and deductions for tuition.
However, Stephen Gold, communications director for the Tax Foundation, a Washington think-tank, said consumer spending would get a small boost from the proposed $500-per-child tax credit for families with incomes under $75,000.
To beef up exports to fast-growing developing countries, the administration requested $8 million for the International Trade Administration’s Big Emerging Markets program, which will open or enlarge commercial offices and sponsor trade shows in Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey.
The Department of Commerce is also creating a Secretariat for Dispute Settlement to handle complaints by U.S. businesses or citizens about unfair commercial practices relating to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The administration proposed leaving the budget of the U.S. Customs Service stable at $1.76 billion in fiscal 1996, which begins Oct. 1. However, legislation will be proposed to help improve overall border management, increase facilitation of traffic, stop cross-border smuggling and stem illegal immigration. — Fairchild News Service