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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. WATERS. Mr. Chairman and Members, I rise in opposition to this underlying bill, the Republican Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year, commonly referred to as THUD. This bill drastically underfunds critical transportation, infrastructure, and housing programs.

First, on transportation, the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2009 report for America's infrastructure estimated that there is a $549.5 billion shortfall in investments in roads and bridges, and an additional $190.1 billion shortfall in investments in transit. Yet this bill provides no funds for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, better known as TIGER.

Now, TIGER would finance a wide variety of innovative highway, bridge, and transit projects in urban and rural communities across the country, provided there is sufficient funding. One such project is the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor in Los Angeles County, a light-rail project that will run through my district. TIGER grants could be used to finance stations along this corridor in the communities of Leimert Park and Westchester, thereby ensuring that these communities have access to light-rail.

Last week, I introduced H.R. 5976, the TIGER Grants for Job Creation Act, which would provide a supplemental emergency appropriation of $1 billion over the next 2 years for the TIGER program, and 48 of my colleagues have already cosponsored the bill.

Last night, I offered an amendment to fully fund TIGER at the requested level, without cutting funding for other programs. Representatives Betty McCollum, Barbara Lee, Emanuel Cleaver, Karen Bass, Laura Richardson, Bobby Rush, and Doris Matsui joined me in offering this amendment. The Republicans objected to this amendment to their appropriations bill because it was not in order under their rule. So this bill has no funding for this critical program to create jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.

Why did we have so much support on this legislation? Why do we have so many people who are signing on to basically beg for TIGER funding? It is because TIGER funding will create millions of jobs. It's because jobs are needed so desperately in this economy. It is because not only will we create millions of jobs, our infrastructure is in great disrepair. We have bridges that have been designated as unsafe. We have roads, we have water projects, we have all kinds of infrastructure needs that are unmet. This is the least that the American public could expect.

This transportation bill has been waited on in many communities across this country. People thought when we passed this bill that we truly were going to expand job opportunities, that we truly were going to repair the infrastructure, but we find that this bill does not do this.

But in addition to the disappointment that we are all experiencing because of the objection to repair of the infrastructure and job creation, we find that the same thing is happening in housing. We bemoan the fact that our veterans are homeless and they are on the streets, and that our shelters are all full, and that when we go into many of these communities--not only in our inner cities, but in our rural areas also--we find that people are not only sleeping on the streets, but under these bridges that are in great disrepair.

This legislation cuts money from the homeless program. This will cut $231 million in homeless assistance grants compared to the President's budget request. At this level, HUD would be unable to fund all renewals of existing grants, jeopardizing assistance to approximately 25,000 of our most vulnerable citizens.

This bill provides less than $2 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund, despite a $30 million backlog of needed repairs. This is a huge cut, even when compared to funding during the Bush administration. In fact, in fiscal year
2008, the capital account received $2.4 billion in funding. This underfunding means that we will continue to lose public housing units as they fall into disrepair and long-term capital needs are neglected.

The people who are serviced by this account are vulnerable, and so I would simply ask that this be given some real consideration and yield back the balance of my time.

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