As Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, I am working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and with private sector leaders to spur additional job creation, to strengthen the manufacturing sector and to boost our recovery.

There is widespread agreement that the federal government must tighten its belt, just as families have tightened theirs. Before being elected to the Senate, I spent a decade as Pennsylvania’s Auditor General and State Treasurer. I know firsthand that duplication, inefficiencies and waste must be rooted out. 

As Congress tackles long-term deficit and debt, policies must also be enacted that allow for a sustained economic recovery and an investment in Americans, especially our children.

Encourage innovation. Innovation has always powered the U.S. economy -- from the Model T to life-saving breakthroughs in biotech.  I will be reintroducing the Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act to promote innovation and job creation by providing targeted tax incentives for small and mid-sized businesses to invest in life sciences research and development. By offering incentives for life sciences research, we can foster new breakthroughs in life-enhancing products and technologies, strengthen our competitive position and add high-quality jobs to the economy. Similarly, we must continue to expand funding for medical research through the National Institutes of Health. The $1 billion in cuts that have passed the House would deal a setback to medical advances as well as economic growth.

Build a clean-energy economy. Recent events in the Middle East remind us yet again that we must change the way we produce and consume energy in this country. Natural gas can be a key piece of a new energy future.  Pennsylvania, with its abundant natural gas resources, is well positioned to play a leading role. With the development of the Marcellus Shale good-paying jobs can be created for Pennsylvanians while helping reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. But we have to do it right, safeguarding our drinking water, protecting the health and safety of residents and local communities.

Invest in our people. The upcoming reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act provides Congress with an opportunity to make job training programs more efficient across the country. Let's get rid of the programs that don't work or are duplicative and put our resources behind proven efforts that build skills and lead to jobs. We must train workers with the skills that are in greatest demand and concentrate on the sectors where growth prospects are strongest.      

While the economy has shown signs of improvement, other data highlights some of the remaining challenges.  Unemployment remains near 9 percent.   Oil prices have spiked to over $100 per barrel and the price at the pump is now $3.52 per gallon – a 77 cent increase from last year.

The overhang of housing inventory and foreclosures has kept housing prices depressed. State and local governments are facing significant budget shortfalls.

Our nation is at a critical moment. We need to simultaneously add jobs, cut wasteful spending, reduce the long-term deficit and invest in critical areas like education and research. 

Congress must rise to the challenge.