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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GARRETT. Mr. Chairman, it was my impression that this House had put an end to earmarks, and yet the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill contains $125 million solely for the benefit of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also known as WMATA.

This is just a fraction, mind you, of the $1.5 billion that Congress intends to give the D.C. Metro system over a 10-year period. This is not just your everyday average earmark. The Heritage Foundation has dubbed this subsidy ``the largest earmark in American history.''

So I have an amendment here at the desk, and it is very simple. It simply eliminates this earmark that has received subsidies since 2008.

At a time of record budget deficits and debt, the American people cannot afford to provide yet again another earmark, another special subsidy, especially when you take into consideration the fact that the D.C. Metro already receives funds from a variety of other Federal sources, from other Federal Transit Administration grants and programs.

Also, you add to that, given the performance of this agency, I find it absolutely astounding that the American people should want to give even more of their hard-earned cash to this agency. In addition to daily service interruptions, lax management, and poor general performance, Metro has a significant record of wasting money. Right here in The Washington Post, it was reported that Metro spent $382 million to rebuild cars, only to have them break down even more often than the cars that they didn't overhaul. The Post also pointed out that when senior agency attorneys wanted new offices for themselves, they spent over a quarter of a million dollars to accommodate them. And why not? It's simply our money, taxpayer money being used.

Last year, it was reported that the Office of Inspector General uncovered several personal and unwarranted expenses on Metro's credit cards, such as $2,000 worth of gift cards, things like camcorders valued at $730, and even $180 for headphones. So even when they spend this money on things it should be spending on, the facts are really disturbing. The Federal Government pays, mind you, over half--specifically, 56 percent--of their capital costs already.

Now, I understand that we'll hear others who say, D.C., the Nation's Capital, it's a tourist destination and it has a large population that utilizes it as transportation to get to work, but this is nothing unique. The same can be said for cities back in my neck of the woods like New York City or over in Chicago or Philadelphia, Boston, and Los Angeles. Should they get the same earmarks as well? What is it that is unique about Washington, D.C., that they are the only ones that get this type of earmark?

Congress should not be forced to make the taxpayers use their hard-earned money to subsidize a transportation system that has failed over the years to get its fiscal house in order. We owe it to the American people to be better than that.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GARRETT. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman first begins his comments by attacking my motives in this matter, saying that--what did he say? I do not care about lines such as Metro or the people it serves.

I would ask the gentleman, who's not paying any attention to me, exactly what is it in my statement would say that I do not care about the people that it serves? Because I do care about them, as much as I care about the subway system or the metro system in my metro area, such as New York City or in my metro area, such as down in Newark, New Jersey. I care about them as well.

But you know, when I go back and I talk to those people who use those services, whether they be residents of New Jersey or residents of New York, or maybe they're residents from Virginia, from your neck of the woods up here, who come to visit the financial capital of the world, New York City, or the Garden State of New Jersey, who want to use our metro systems, they ask me why it is that D.C. gets a special deal, why D.C. gets $1.5 billion over 10 years for their system.

Let's get the facts straight as far as the subsidy for the capital cost of 65 percent, and why our cities in our area, what is it that's so unique and special about this area and not about Chicago or Philadelphia or the other areas.

So I go to my first question. What is it in my statement that you said, you could slander me, sir, by saying that I do not care about the people who ride on these systems?

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GARRETT. If I had some of the charts showing where some of the wealthiest districts are in the Nation, where, despite the turmoil of '08 and the financial crisis, where prices of real estate continue to rise, where revenues continue to go up, it would be in this section of the country, not in Boston, not in Philly, not in New York or Newark. But this is one of the wealthiest portions of the country.

And you're right, sir. If this is an area that should look for subsidies, it should look for subsidies from some of the wealthiest people in America that live right here, not under the underlying bill.

It's not asking for people from your district to pay their fair share, or the people from Maryland or Virginia to pay their fair share. It's asking for people from all across the country to chip in to pay for here, when you're not allowing the people from New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago, out in California--those other areas have subway systems and metro systems. You're not willing to help them out.

But, Mr. Speaker, you want everyone else in America to help the residents who live here and subsidize their costs, but you're not willing to help out the people who live in my neck of the woods.

And that, sir, is unfair to my constituents. That's unfair to all the constituents in all those cities that are looking for a fair deal and for efficiency and economy from our government, and not for special deals.

I'll end where I began. I thought Washington had done away with earmarks but, obviously, with this legislation and the special interests that are being catered to here, we have not done so.

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