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Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, THE JUDICIARY, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 29, 2005)

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Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, I want to congratulate the gentleman from Michigan (Chairman KNOLLENBERG) and the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Olver), ranking member, for the hard work they have done under this bill under very tight budget restraints.

I think that this is a good piece of legislation, although I do have some concerns about cuts in particular programs.

HOPE VI; the Empowerment Zone program; the Community Development Loan Guarantees; the HUD Brownfields program, a program close to my heart, which provides a second chance for reuse to many old industrial properties, all of which have been contaminated, we want to get them back on the tax rolls.

But perhaps most surprisingly the YouthBuild program, which provides a crucial second chance for a good life to thousands of disadvantaged young people in our Nation's urban communities, has been zeroed out in the legislation that we are debating today.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to describe to my colleagues today what I have learned about the tremendous success of YouthBuild in my years as mayor of the city of Paterson, New Jersey. In the work I have done with YouthBuild participants, I have heard scores of inspiring accounts from young kids who spent their lives struggling with poverty, dysfunctional or absent families, drug addiction and other forms of neglect and abuse. And be rest assured this program is not a handout. Through the challenging concrete task of building houses for the homeless, getting their hands dirty with demanding physical labor, these kids have been given the tools to begin to rebuild their own lives.

This is a model program that both sides of the aisle should enthusiastically support, a program that helps young people gain the self-esteem, self-reliance that come with a hard day's work in the service of another human being.

According to a recent study, an astounding 65 percent of the YouthBuild graduates say that they now expect to live an average of 32 years longer after YouthBuild experience than they expected to live before. Self-esteem is not the only thing that is raised through this program. Income potential and educational achievement have also soared. Seventy percent of YouthBuild graduates are either in post-secondary education or in jobs averaging $10 per hour.

This program is unquestionably a winner for young people across our Nation. YouthBuild develops job skills, leadership potential, civic involvement, and creates a community of adults and youth committed to helping each other achieve success in life. And through the construction of affordable housing, it contributes to the revitalization of our poorest neighborhoods.

It is hard to believe that a compassionate President and a Congress would want to wipe out any of these programs which epitomize our oldest and most sacred American values: hard work, self-reliance, and limitless optimism about the future.

I urge the House to find ways to increase funding for the valuable community revitalization initiatives that have been cut from this legislation.

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Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, Amtrak was there for America after 9/11. It performed beautifully. Its employees performed. This is delivering people, product, all over the United States of America. And if you look at the map, this is all wiped out, all in red. In red, mind you.

It is inexcusable that we are only funding half of what is needed for Amtrak. There could be no more illusion about the administration's desire to destroy Amtrak. The Federal Government took on the burden of passenger rail from the freight railroads in 1971, in a bill signed by President Richard Nixon. Read my lips. These private companies were relieved to be rid of what they knew was inherently a nonprofit operation.

Federal subsidization for other transportation modes is nothing new. Each year in New Jersey, 4 million New Jersey residents ride Amtrak. Pennsylvania, 5 million. And look at the investments in the many cities of Pennsylvania, and Amtrak, that they have invested capital improvements. We cannot accept half of a loaf.

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Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the amendment being offered by Chairman LaTourette and Ranking Member Oberstar which would give Amtrak a fighting chance to function next year.

It is inexcusable that the bill before us today contains only $550 million for intercity passenger rail service, effectively bankrupting Amtrak. There can be no more illusions about the Administration's desire to destroy Amtrak once and for all.

The Federal Government took on the burden of passenger rail from the freight railroads in 1971 in a bill signed by President Richard Nixon. These private companies were relieved to be rid of what they knew was inherently a non-profit operation.

Federal subsidization for other transportation modes is nothing new. We have been subsidizing the money-losing airlines time and time again.

This Congress properly provides tens of billions every year for highways, public transit, aviation, and maritime transportation infrastructure and operations. Passenger rail is just as deserving of our support as the rest.

Each year, about 4 million New Jersey residents ride Amtrak.

200,000 commuters up and down the Northeast Corridor rely on Amtrak to maintain the NJ Transit system. Amtrak has tremendous impact on our regional economy in the Northeast. Amtrak relieves congestion throughout the Northeast on the roadways and airways.

Like so many of our States, my home State of New Jersey already has a severely strained State budget. Passing the buck of rail operations and maintenance onto already struggling State budgets is not a solution based in reality.

Funding Amtrak at last year's level is the very least we can do to keep the trains running that Americans count on nationwide.

We must support the LaTourette/Oberstar amendment. We must defeat this ill-conceived proposal. The Congress must provide the dollars that Amtrak needs to run efficiently and effectively.

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AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MS. CORRINE BROWN OF FLORIDA

Ms. CORRINE BROWN of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I want to remind my brothers and sisters from both sides of the aisle that this was a national system envisioned by the President in 1971, President Nixon, who had the bipartisan support of the Congress of the United States. And why was it proposed? It was proposed because the private companies wanted out. They no longer could pay for a system that serviced America.

Now, let me say what that system encompasses, I support this amendment by the ranking member, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Corrine Brown), the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Railroads.

Just three of those routes in red that you want to dispose of, the Silver Service, the Silver Meteor and the Palmetto, from New York to Miami, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington, all the way to Jacksonville-Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, services 738,000 people. No small potatoes. That is a lot of folks. Where are you asking them to go? How are they going to get between destinations?

While I can accept that Amtrak must reform and while I can accept that we need to do away with any frivolous spending whatsoever, we need to sustain a system here, and we need to figure out on both sides of the aisle how to do it.

The Crescent from New York to New Orleans to Philadelphia to Wilmington, to Baltimore, Washington, Greensboro, Charlotte, Atlanta and Birmingham, 256,000 people, 256,000 passengers. And the Carolinian from Charlotte to New York City, 305,000 passengers. That is why I support the Brown-Menendez-Rahall amendment to keep these Amtrak trains on track.

I want to express in the strongest words here, Mr. Chairman, contrary to what one might expect, residents in my area of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, they travel rail to Florida. They do not only travel the northeast corridor, they travel by rail to the Midwest, they travel up to New England beyond just Boston, and they like using the trains, the very same trains that brought us from place to place after 9/11, remember, when we could not travel. Thank goodness that we had some semblance of a national system.

Americans like the freedom to travel. They want to make choices. I believe it should be the goal of the Department of Transportation to expand transportation alternatives, not to cut back on those choices.

It was Amtrak that I rode home from Washington on to be with my constituents to assess the damage at Ground Zero, as well as folks from both sides of the aisle. It is too important to the American people and the American economy to settle for anything less than a national system.

Mr. Chairman, I have heard the presentations about reform. I have heard no explanations, no alternatives to in any way sustain those routes that are all in red. So if we took the red away, we have systems that are not interconnected, and many of those systems are connected to the intermodal part of transportation, which is what TEA-LU is all about, which is what TEA-21 was all about, intermodal transportation. The Amtrak system is part of it, whether we are talking about rail, whether we are talking about airlines, whatever we are talking about.

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AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. KENNEDY OF MINNESOTA

Mr. KENNEDY of Minnesota. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, this is the most discouraging part of this discussion that we have had this afternoon. Everybody has been civil. I think everybody has attempted to be nonpartisan, which is how it should be on such an important piece of legislation. Even if we eliminated all the long-distance routes in Amtrak, we would save $300 million. But these savings do not occur in the first year because these are expenses that are accrued. This is not acceptable.

What is most reprehensible is to not only deal with the facts but make those who support this legislation of returning the $1.2 billion to its rightful place, that we somehow are going to be on the side of those depriving those who are homeless of necessary resources. That, to me, is despicable.

I really want to say a different word, but I respect the institution and I respect the gentleman from Minnesota. But this is horrible. We ought to take a good look at ourselves. We ought to take a look at how many letters we sign, how many parts of the petitions over the years we have come back to this Congress with to say, "Please restore the dollars for the homeless. Please restore the dollars for the downtrodden." Neither party is privy to virtue. Neither party is privy to who cares more about the homeless. But do not try to take it out of something that you know we have been fighting for that is necessary.

Now, I have an idea. Why do we not do away with the long-distance route the Carolinian? That is 305,000 passengers. Let us wipe it out tomorrow. You tell those people in Raleigh and Richmond and Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia, you tell them we are taking the route off because we think there are more productive routes and that this is the least productive. You write the letter and put your signature on it and tell them that. You put your signature on that.

We, as a body, must do for the homeless together, and we as a body must do for those who ride the trains all over this country. You have seen enough of the map. You have seen enough of those routes that go everywhere and every place. And if we are going to have a system of intermodal transportation in this country, we all have to pull together.

No one denies there should be some changes in Amtrak. I have fought for them myself. But do not stand there and tell me that I am not responding to the homeless. I take exception to that. You are pointing at me. You are not making a general statement. I am not going to let you get away with making a general statement that those of us on this side of the aisle and those of you on this side of the aisle do not care about the homeless.

So you have done, I think, a disservice to both sides of the aisle when you suggest that we can take a little off here and put it over there. This is not checkers. This is the real stuff. This is the real thing, and we need an intermodal system. We need a system of national transportation started by President Nixon in 1971.

I will end on that note.

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AMENDMENT NO. 9 OFFERED BY GARY G. MILLER OF CALIFORNIA:

Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I want to congratulate the chairman and I want to congratulate the gentleman from California (Mr. Gary G. Miller). If there is any area that will positively affect, positively affect our cities, as a former city mayor, it is this piece of legislation.

I drive by Paterson, New, Jersey and there are so many places that have been abandoned. Either the person could not keep up with the taxes, or he cannot clean up the property in the first place.

If there is anything that fosters private-public partnerships, it is this legislation, because it brings together the local community, the developer, usually State officials who have their own brownfields legislation themselves.

I want to commend the gentleman from California. I think that this is an excellent piece of legislation. I support the added $24 million. I think this is going to go a long way. This is something tangible and far from a lot of hot air we hear about helping cities from both sides of the aisle here. Congratulations.

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Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the Miller-Johnson Amendment to increase the Community Development Fund by $24 million-funding that will be allocated toward the HUD-Brownfields Redevelopment Program.

There are an estimated 500,000 to 1 million brownfields sites nationwide-covering nearly 200,000 acres of land across the country. Indeed, there are over 1,000 brownfields sites in the 2 counties that make up my district alone.

These sites are abandoned, often former industrial properties whose redevelopment can be an important ingredient in the economic recovery of urban areas.

As a former mayor, I can tell you that redevelopment is the only type of growth that is possible any longer in our urban communities.

Brownfields development can have a multitude of positive effects on our Nation's most troubled cities: they can help to create jobs, improve the quality of the environment, and spur smart growth and preservation of open space.

My district in New Jersey has many brownfields redevelopment success stories to tell. The formerly abandoned Boris Kroll Mill in Paterson has recently been transformed into market-rate rental housing-creating 39 new apartments for residents and 10,000 square feet of retail and office space.

With financial support from the Federal and local governments buttressing private support, the area surrounding the new redevelopment has been given new life.

The buildings have retained their beautiful 19th Century architecture with brick fronts, high ceilings and grid windows.

With the increasing commitment of Federal, State and local authorities to redevelopment, these success stories from our cities and suburbs are being heard around the country.

In the past decade, Congress has made an impressive bipartisan effort, as we are demonstrating in this amendment today, to raise the profile of brownfields redevelopment projects and pass laws to streamline the process.

Every member of the community benefits from increased Federal incentives for development: residents, land owners, developers, and businesses.

Unlike EPA brownfields funds, the HUD brownfields grants are primarily targeted for use in economic development projects.

This HUD program provides a powerful incentive for cities, developers and parties facing brownfields liability to convert dilapidated sites into engines of economic growth.

These redevelopment projects enable certain distressed communities to experience a type of rebirth.

They reconnect us to our historic past, renew our sense of pride in our cities, and infuse neighborhoods with the vitality and dynamism they once had in our great industrial past.

Let us not take a step backward by zeroing out funding for the important Brownfields Economic Development Initiative at HUD right at the moment when we are beginning to see real progress.

I urge the House to vote for the bipartisan Miller-Johnson amendment to add $24 million in funding to this important community renewal program.

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