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Conference Report on H.R. 3058, Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, and Independent...

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Location: Washington, DC

CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 3058, TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, THE JUDICIARY, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - November 18, 2005)

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Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the good work that was done by members of the subcommittee, and I am going to vote for the bill in recognition of the very good efforts. I believe the chairman, operating within the constraints that he had to operate within, did a reasonable job. I very much agree with the gentlewoman from Michigan who lamented some of the decisions that were made with regard to HUD, and I appreciate the work that has been done by my colleague from Massachusetts in a number of areas.

Just briefly, I want to comment on one subject, and that is the question of earmarks in transportation. The Governor of my State put out a transportation plan for the entire State earlier this year. The only two highway projects for the entire region of the State in southeastern Massachusetts that several of us represent came because our colleagues in the committees did what we asked and earmarked some funding.

That is, not only were those earmarks very important for the local areas, but the State then adopted them as their only projects. So for people who think that earmarks somehow are some excrescence imposed from without, in my judgment, they often reflect better the local priorities; and one of the ones where I have gotten some help from the ranking member and others is to create the first handicapped-accessible commuter rail station on an important commuter route going into Boston from the west. I make no apologies for that earmark.

Unfortunately, this subcommittee, however, had to operate within the constraints of a terrible budget, and while they did the best they could, with one exception, I would join the gentleman from Michigan in regretting the choice that was made about the voucher funding formula; they did not, I think, take the right choice there. They adopted a formula that locks into the past, and let me predict now that Members, once again, are going to start hearing from their local communities as the year goes on about problems with vouchers, about the waiting list being too long, about people being upset; and it is probably because of what we have been coerced into doing here.

The other problem, though, is that in some cases we simply have too little money for the programs. Community Development Block Grants is cut I am told about 9 percent, $362 million. That is a very important program. It is not the fault of the subcommittee. They have been given an allocation. Well, I take it back. It is not the fault of those members of the subcommittee that did not vote for the budget. Members of the subcommittee that voted for the budget I think are hard-pressed to complain about what it did to their allocation. That is a self-inflicted wound.

But we ought to be clear that as a result of the spending constraints, I take it back, not spending constraints, the misallocated priorities, because there is certainly plenty of money being spent elsewhere in this budget that need not have been spent; but because of these terrible priorities, Community Development Block Grants gets about a 9 percent cut, and there is not much money for brownfields.

Hope VI is a very important program. Three years ago it was at $574 million. Today it is at $100 million because we have an administration ideologically opposed to it, despite an overwhelming bipartisan consensus that it is a good way to deal with housing.

Home funds, one of the few sources left now for construction, is cut further.

So I understand that the subcommittee did a good job within the constraints that they were given, although some of them gave themselves those constraints, but the consequence of these spending priorities of this Congress is underfunding of several important housing and community development priorities.

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