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

By:
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. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of funding for the Community Development Block Grant program. The proposed cuts to this vital program for individual community improvement growth must be withdrawn and full funding restored.

H.R. 3058 seeks to cut $251 million from the Community Development Block Grant program, a 6 percent slash in funding and another reduction in a long string of cutbacks for the program. I stand strongly opposed to any effort to reduce funding to the CDBG program.

The nature of CDBG-funds for housing, economic development, public facilities, social services, and land acquisition, to name a few-incorporates a significant amount of flexibility to appropriate funds at the discretion of each community. What this means for each community is their ability to use Federal funds for a wide range of initiatives as well as to prioritize local needs while supporting national objectives. This great characteristic, leaving specific appropriations for local decision making, does not warrant reductions in the program, which would prevent Federal funds from being used where they are needed most.

In FY 2004, the Community Development Block Grant program provided $4.853 billion to communities across the Nation. In my home State of New Jersey, CDBG funds many important initiatives. In Trenton alone it supports childcare services, provides for job training programs, funds the food programs at local area soup kitchens, and is used towards building and repairing affordable housing in the city. Elsewhere, in Monroe Township the CDBG funds "A Friend in Need," a program which provides homecare to the elderly unable to afford it. It also aids the South Brunswick Citizens for Independent Living (CIL), which builds affordable housing for the disabled and provides training programs on financial independence. These are only a few local examples of this vital Federal program.

The 31-year history of this program has proven to us that investment in communities continues to benefit lower income persons in need of assistance. Most of the CDBG-funded programs have proved to be small in scale, neighborhood-based initiatives. Expenditures through the CDBG program for lower income individuals have repeatedly exceeded the minimums set by Congress.

The 6 percent reduction for the Community Development Block Grant program included in H.R. 3058 is much more damaging than it seems: due to the small nature of many of the programs CDBG funds, it would result in the complete cutting of numerous and invaluable local community projects. I firmly believe that the absence of these programs would neglect many pressing needs of the American people, negatively impact many communities, and, most importantly, prevent Federal funds from reaching those who need them most.

Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to restore full funding for the Community Development Block Grant program as the bill moves to conference.

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the LaTourette/Oberstar amendment that would restore funding for Amtrak. The Fiscal Year 2006 Transportation Treasury, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill that we are debating today cuts funding for Amtrak to $550 million, half of its current funding level. Without increasing the funding level to $1.2 billion, Amtrak will be unable to survive and will be forced into bankruptcy.

In recent years the Administration and some members of Congress have repeatedly proposed significant cuts in Federal funding for Amtrak. They seem determined to eliminate this vital transportation service, and justify these actions by demonizing and blaming Amtrak for all of its problems. These opponents of Amtrak often forget that the Federal government subsidizes our nation's airports, roads, sidewalks, and even its bicycle paths. Why should it treat our national rail system differently?

Like the 25 million people that rode Amtrak in 2005, I appreciate the essential public service Amtrak provides. I am a frequent rail passenger, as are many of my constituents in central New Jersey. In fact, 4 million New Jersey residents rode Amtrak last year, and many New Jersey commuters ride Amtrak or use their infrastructure daily.

The loss of Amtrak would impact more than my constituents and other patrons across the nation who depend on its convenient service. Those customers that rely on Amtrak will be forced to descend on our already heavily congested roads and airports. These demands on our roadways will accelerate the loss of open spaces that will be paved over in order to construct new roads. The additional congestion will increase pollution in urban environments that already suffer from the ill effects of smog.

Furthermore, the economic impact of eliminating Amtrak should not be overlooked. In New Jersey alone, at least $200 million in annual revenues would be lost from the newsstands, convenience stories, cafes, and other retail businesses that are located near the rail lines and that count upon daily commuters for much of their cashflow. This economic dependence on Amtrak is similar along the Northeast Corridor, in cities across the Nation and in rural areas that depend on the train passing through their town.

I am disappointed that the Administration and some members here in Congress fail to recognize the benefits of Amtrak. I hope that the majority of my colleagues will appreciate the importance of Amtrak on America's transportation infrastructure and support the LaTourette/Oberstar amendment that will keep Amtrak running.

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