June 26, 2012
Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 5972, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2013.
This is the sixth bill we’ve considered on the House floor, which means the House is nearly halfway done with its Appropriations bills for fiscal year 2013. The Appropriations Committee has considered 11 of the 12 annual bills so far this year, in record time. I’m proud of our quick and thorough progress, and also that we’ve been able to work in regular order – which has been a goal of this Committee from the get-go last January.
The other commitment this Committee made at the beginning of the Congress was to reduce federal discretionary spending wherever possible. In the past two fiscal years, we’ve cut spending by more than $95 billion, and are on our way to continue reductions for a third year in a row. I’ve said it before, but this is an historic accomplishment – a record for spending reductions that this nation hasn’t seen since at least WWII.
The fiscal year 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill continues this downward trajectory, cutting nearly $4 billion from last year’s level, bringing us to the lowest level of spending for this bill since 2009. The $51.6 billion included in this legislation funds Department of Transportation agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as critical Housing and Urban Development programs.
Within the Department of Transportation, we’ve targeted funds toward programs that improve the reliability, efficiency and safety of our nation’s transportation system. This includes reducing congestion and delays for air travelers by providing nearly $1 billion for the FAA’s NextGen Program, carefully funding Amtrak to help build and maintain rail bridges and tunnels, and supporting construction at airports across the nation. These smart investments in America’s infrastructure will help create an environment that supports job creation and spurs economic growth.
Overall, funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development is cut by $3.8 billion compared with last year, but we took careful steps to ensure that this reduction didn’t unfairly displace our most vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities and the elderly. The funding in this section of the bill prioritizes the most beneficial and cost-effective programs. We are providing Section 8 vouchers for 2.2 million families – fully funding the President’s request – and keeping our veterans with roofs over their heads. We also increased funding for the Community Development Block Grant program.
Throughout the bill, we’ve made policy reforms and conditions that will ensure greater efficiency and less waste. The safe and responsible shepherding of taxpayer dollars is important government-wide – particularly when dealing with our nation’s infrastructure and housing. We help guarantee that taxpayer dollars aren’t slipping through the cracks by implementing strict oversight and eliminating wasteful, unnecessary programs.
To this end, we provided no funding for the President’s High-Speed Rail program, the unauthorized and expensive Choice Neighborhoods program, or the extraneous TIGER grants program, among other uneconomical or unnecessary initiatives. Furthermore, the bill rejects the Administration’s attempted accounting tricks that would enact new fees on air travelers.
There are still several moving parts in this section of the bill as we await reauthorization for the Highway Trust Fund and its Mass Transit Account. The Committee remains at the ready to adjust the bill as needed, if a multi-year authorization is enacted.
In closing, I want to take a moment to extend my thanks and congratulations to Chairman Latham, Ranking Member Olver, and the entire Subcommittee for their expert work on this bill. I also want to thank the staff for both the Majority and the Minority – without them, this bill would not have been possible.
As many of you know, this is Ranking Member Olver’s final THUD Appropriations bill before he retires. His leadership and expertise, his work on this Committee, and his contribution to the House as a whole are incomparable, and we will certainly miss him a great deal.
Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. This bill smartly focuses on our key infrastructure priorities, supports a more responsible and slimmed-down housing department, and holds the line on discretionary spending to a more sustainable level.
Thank you and I yield back.