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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S 1412

Location: Washington, DC


By Ms. STABENOW (for herself and Mr. LEVIN):

    S. 1412. A bill to suspend the implementation of the revised definitions of Metropolitan Statistical Areas applicable to Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, and Allegan Counties in the State of Michigan; to the Committee on Governmental Affairs.

    Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation along with Mr. LEVIN, that would stop the implementation of a new Metropolitan Statistical Area, MSA, in the Michigan counties of Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, and Allegan, KOMA.

    On June 6, 2003, the Office of Management and Budget issued its Bulletin No. 03-04 on Revised Definition of Metropolitan Statistical Areas, New Definitions of Micropolitan Statistical Areas, and Combined Statistical Areas, and Guidance on the Use of the Statistical Definitions in These Areas.

    This bulletin finalizes a process that began with the last census. Statistical areas, as explained by the OMB, are designed solely for statistical purposes. As stated in the bulletin, they are designed to "provide nationally consistent definitions in collecting, tabulating, and publishing Federal statistics for a set of geographic areas." The problem is that the are used for much more than that. They are principal tool for allocating Federal dollars. And, although OMB recognizes this, it will "not take into account or attempt to anticipate any nonstatistical uses that may be made of the MSAs."

    This is a serious problem. On one hand, we are implementing new MSAs to serve basic statistical purposes. On the other hand, these new MSAs are critical for the allocation of Federal money and OMB does not consider, in the least bit, how these new MSAs may negatively or positively affect communities. It is easy for OMB staff to say that their hands are tied by rules and strict methodologies, but this is not about number-crunching. This is about real dollars for Michigan.

    I have heard from numerous constituents in West Michigan who are concerned about how these new statistical, designations will affect Medicaid and Medicare payments, Housing and Urban Development grants, Community Development Block Grants, and other important programs in Michigan. I share these concerns and want to make sure that we do not allow a new system of Federal dollar allocations to come into effect that would hurt West Michigan. We need time to study the impact of the new MSAs. That is why I am offering legislation to stay the implementation of the new West Michigan MSAs until October 1, 2004, leaving the current Kent-Ottawa-Muskegon-Allegan, KOMA, MSA in place.

    The KOMA region has developed a common identity over the last decade. It shares regional challenges such as tourism, transportation networks, environmental protection, and community health. Business leaders have worked hard to market the region as a common community with much to offer potential new businesses and families looking to relocate. I do not want these leaders to lose this marketing tool. By the OMB setting up a new MSA with no consideration of the economic and social integration of the existing MSA, we could see the undermining of a great deal of progress for this part of Michigan.

    We, in Congress, should eventually look at this issue of MSAs comprehensively. We should ensure that communities do not have to fact this uncertainty every decade with a new census. We should either ensure that the OMB takes into account economic and other community concerns when creating MSAs or we should make sure that Federal funding allocations are not made through MSAs. Regardless, in the short run, it is essential that the hospitals, the community development organizations, the business leaders, and the social service providers of West Michigan who are raising these concerns with me have time to study the problem and understand the impact of OMB's decision. Once that has been studied, we can work with OMB and the interested parties to ensure that there is no loss of Federal money to West Michigan.

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