Chairman Latham Opening Statement on FY 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill for Full Committee Markup

Jun 19, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I am pleased to offer the THUD bill for Full Committee consideration today.  I hope we can be brief.  I’d like to thank Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Dicks for your leadership in getting this bill to Full Committee, and, we hope, to the floor in the near future.  I think we stand a good chance of being successful in completing House consideration. 

Before we get to the bill, I want to congratulate my colleague and the Ranking Member of this subcommittee, John Olver, for his years of service.  As many of you know, Mr. Olver is retiring at the end of this Congress, and I have to say, he will be sorely missed by this Committee and all of his colleagues here in the House.  This is a better bill because of his relentless quest for knowledge about its programs.  He stands out for his kindness and compassion.  Thank you, John Olver, for your service not just to this institution, but to the Nation.

The bill before the Committee today is a balanced proposal on how to allocate $51.6 billion among Federal housing and transportation programs across our nation.  Continuing our commitment to reduce government spending, our allocation is almost $4 billion below fiscal year 2012, and almost $2 billion below the President’s request. The bill also reflects the budget resolution passed by the House.

We had to make some hard choices on funding levels for the agencies in this bill.  We dedicated ourselves to this task while recognizing the serious fiscal constraints this Nation faces.

For transportation programs, this bill focuses on the programs most critical to public safety and economic growth.

We fully fund FAA safety programs and provide $1 billion to advance the Next Generation of Air Traffic control.  We also fund programs to support growth in commercial space and unmanned aerial systems, which will play a key role in keeping these U.S. industries on the global cutting edge.

This bill funds highway and transit programs consistent with last year’s levels, but contingent upon reauthorization.  I don’t need to tell everyone here that we desperately need a highway and transit bill.  I am hopeful that the authorizing committees of jurisdiction will complete their work in a timely and common sense manner.  We will be ready to work with the authorizers’ numbers as we move to a conference on this bill. 

The bill cuts the Amtrak operating subsidy by $116 million below last year and does not fund the President’s request for high speed rail. However, the bill provides $500 million in authorized funds to fix existing infrastructure on public passenger lines.  This will immediately create jobs, as CBO has scored it with an 80 percent outlay rate in the first year. We believe this is a better alternative to the Administration’s high speed rail proposal.

For housing programs, this bill fully funds renewals of Section 8 vouchers, serving 2.2 million families. We also provide $75 million for 10,000 new VASH vouchers, fully funding the budget request.  The bill matches the President’s request of $8.7 billion for Project Based Rental Assistance.  CDBG is funded at a healthy $3.4 billion and HOME is funded at $1.2 billion.

I’d like to close by saying we tried to be balanced in our approach with this bill, but rejected broad new, unauthorized programs requested by the President. We also do not include other authorizing provisions requested by members, out of deference to the ongoing work of both T&I and the Financial Services Committees.  As we consider amendments today, I would ask that Members refrain from offering authorizing language and let the authorizers finish their work.  This bill will have the best chance of moving toward conference if we keep it free of new authorizations.

Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Dicks, thank you both for moving this bill through the process, and I yield back my time.