Mr. DINGELL. Mr. Chair, I rise today in support of H.R. 5972. While this is not a perfect bill, it will fund important transportation and housing projects creating well-paying jobs across this country.
I am pleased that this bill provides a much-needed increase to Amtrak, which will greatly help Amtrak accommodate growing ridership and develop intercity passenger rail. It also continues to invest in the FAA's NextGen air traffic control modernization effort, which will help to keep our public airspace safe and reduce flight times. The Community Development Block Grants program is also fully funded helping local governments to address housing and social service issues unique to their communities. It also fully funds the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, providing the nearly 70,000 homeless veterans with long-term housing when they need it.
However, I want to express my deep disappointment that this bill does not provide any funding to high speed intercity passenger rail or the TIGER program. Both of these programs have proven to be successful and play an integral role in bringing our infrastructure in to the 21st Century. At a time when you have labor and business--the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO--calling for stronger investment in our infrastructure, it is shortsighted that we not provide this necessary funding. We cannot continue to compete with our neighbors abroad if we are not improving and growing our infrastructure. My colleagues in the House, on the left and the right, have called for a jobs package and this funding could have been that first step.
I am disappointed at the lack of funding for critical housing programs. This bill drastically cuts funds to the Project-Based Section 8 voucher program that provides rental assistance to approximately 1.2 million low-income families. Furthermore, there is no funding for programs that would help rebuild blighted communities. Not only would eliminating blight and rebuilding neighborhoods create jobs, but they would also rejuvenate communities in areas like Southeast Michigan that were hit so hard by the collapse of the housing market and the economic recession.
Taken as a whole Mr. Chair, H.R. 5972 will make needed investments in our transportation and housing infrastructure, but more must be done. As our bridges, roads, sewers, buildings, and neighborhoods crumble, we cannot afford to underfund critical programs that rehabilitate and rebuild. We cannot move in to the 21st century with 20th century investments. I call on my colleagues to pass a strong surface transportation reauthorization that will fix this oversight of needed funding and put Americans across the country back to work bettering our neighborhoods and communities.