On Friday, the House approved H.R. 5972, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2013. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) voted against the measure.
"I could not support a bill that slashes important grants for transportation and housing initiatives in Hawaii. This legislation eliminates the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant, which has been funded year after year as a fulfillment of the trust obligation that Congress created in 1920 through the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. We must respect our duty and our commitment, and continue to recognize the importance of returning native Hawaiians to the land for the preservation of their culture, traditions, and values.
"It eliminates funding for TIGER grants, and underfunds the Honolulu Rail Project which will create jobs, reduce our dependence on imported oil, and provide our residents and visitors with an alternative to sitting in gridlock or filling up at the pump.
"Our economy is improving, but it needs our continued attention. This measure undermines investments that help drive economic growth, support innovation and community development, and assists many of those who are struggling through no fault of their own -- exactly the wrong approach if our goal is providing a foundation for American confidence and success," said Hanabusa.
Hanabusa tried to amend the bill to restore funding for the NHHBG program, which was funded at $13 million in FY12 and provides affordable housing opportunities to low-income Native Hawaiian families eligible to reside on the Hawaiian home lands.
VIDEO LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62f46YTns4I&feature=youtu.be
H.R. 5972 would underfund HUD homeless assistance grants, and the Administration says 30,000 families will lose housing assistance under the bill. It also eliminates funding for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiatives, a grant program that helps improve distressed neighborhoods.
The bill cuts funding for the Department of Transportation's New Starts high speed rail account -- and only appropriates $100 million for the Honolulu Rail Project, compared to $250 million allocated in the Senate Transportation Appropriations bill and requested in the President's budget.
Grants under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program -- which invest in our nation's road, rail, transit and port projects -- receive no funding in this bill.
"And let's not forget, Congress agreed to reasonable spending levels in the Budget Control Act of 2011 that reduced government spending while helping ensure adequate funding for important programs. This bill ignores those agreed-upon standards."
H.R. 5972 passed by a vote of 261 to 163 and now heads to the Senate.