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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, I strongly oppose this amendment.

This amendment indiscriminately cuts programs in transportation and housing without any thought to the relevant merits of the programs contained in this bill. For instance, they would result in fewer air traffic controllers, fewer pipeline safety inspectors that ensure that accidents do not occur, fewer vouchers for homeless veterans. It would reduce salaries and expense accounts for all the departments. In some of the agencies, salaries and expenses are almost everything in the agency. You would do the same thing for all the capital accounts, the construction accounts, since this is basically an infrastructure bill that has a lot of capital expenditures. All of this would be done across the board.

More generally, investments in our transportation and housing infrastructure will be reduced and the associated jobs will be lost. From the amendment itself, there will be public jobs lost. Also, there will be jobs lost because of the loss in infrastructure, which is important to this country and very critical.

I want to point out that the sponsor of this legislation is again reneging on her word. She voted for last summer's Budget Control Act that set this year's spending limits. The Ryan budget broke that agreement and lowered spending levels. The sponsor's amendment breaks the agreement again by reducing discretionary funding even further.

I strongly urge Members to oppose this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, from the looks of it, the gentleman from California has quite a fight going on with the Sierra Club, with three of the four major newspapers--I don't know which ones they are exactly. I didn't know there were four major newspapers in San Francisco. Most places these days, if they have one, they're doing very well--and with the State legislature in California as well.

I strongly oppose this amendment. And, frankly, I am disappointed by what it represents. This project, I think, is a perfect--well, maybe not perfect--is a very good example of the types of infrastructure projects our major urban areas need to remain economically strong, provide job creation now, and critical access to jobs in the future.

Six of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in this country--those with a population over 1 million--exist in the State of California. California also happens to have five additional ones which have 500,000 to 1 million in population. Seven of those 11 are growing by more than 25 percent per year. And these are exactly the sort of places--all of them--they are places that need investment, continued investment, and continued assistance from the Federal Government.

They are putting a major amount of money into our authorization plans, which we extend and are still under extension. And I think most people here hope and understand that we need to have a reauthorization sometime within the next few days, probably, and that the program in California is one that is fully authorized and ready to go.

Population density in the area that is involved in this particular program is over 50,000 people per square mile. Ultimately, the project will tie together one of the fastest-growing sections of San Francisco with one of the densest neighborhoods in the Nation and will provide key regional connections with other transit systems, including commuter rail and future high-speed rail programs.

The project has been thoroughly reviewed by the FTA and the State of California. Local authorities determined that it was of high value. In addition, the chairman included $100 million in the underlying bill as an acknowledgement that this project is moving and will improve transportation and create construction jobs in the Bay Area. The Bay Area needs construction jobs as well as we need construction jobs in every part of this Nation in order to have a robust economy.

I have a press release, which arrived today, just to add to the game. The California Transportation Commission unanimously approved the commitment of $61 million in State high-speed rail connectivity funds for the Central Subway Project, this very project, this very day.

I also have here with me the editorial from the San Francisco Examiner--I'm not sure whether that's one of your major newspapers in the area or not--in support of this program.

I understand that the sponsor might not support public transportation, but when he singles out one project of many that received a high rating, it's hard not to wonder if his opposition is not based on some kind of internal politics and not on sound policy.

I oppose this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

Central Subway Needs Money To Fulfill Potential

It is time for everyone to get onboard with the Central Subway project--the largest Muni project in recent years.

This week, the excavation of nearly a full block in San Francisco began as construction workers started ripping up the streets around Fourth and Bryant. The project is for a launch box,'' the staging ground for next year, when two massive hole-boring machines will ultimately serve as the tunnel for the new Central Subway line.

If you believe the naysayers, this tunneling is the beginning of a train to nowhere or a multimillion-dollar project that utterly lacks funding and will result in a train line without riders.

None of this is true.

The Central Subway is the second phase of the T-Third Street route, a 5.1-mile light-rail line that has done much good by connecting downtown with the southeastern neighborhoods of The City. The entire project germinated from the Embarcadero Freeway teardown after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The compromise for not rebuilding the freeway was to plan for this new transit line.

The Central Subway project will extend the T-Third Street line 1.7 miles through the South of Market neighborhood, with stops at Moscone Center and Union Square, and end in Chinatown. The project will tie together one of the fastest-growing sections of The City with one of the densest neighborhoods in the nation. The ridership projections for the project, which opponents say are too low to justify the 81.6 billion cost, are for the small section of line itself. The opponents point to one number--35,000 riders in 2020. But the true ridership number is for the entire T-Third Street line, which is projected to be about 65,000 by 2030.

It is true that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is moving ahead with this project without full federal funding. The work has been going on for some time, such as the moving of utilities that are in the way of tunneling. In these days of tight federal funding, when the present Congress is in the hands of tea party ideologues who want to kill public works projects that aren't car-oriented, the only way to prove a project is worthy of federal funding is having it shovel ready--or in this case, bore-ready.

But since the SFMTA has done so much to prove it is fully invested in this project, we are confident that the subway line is going to be fully financed. The Federal Transit Administration is expected to provide the final $942 million by the end of the month. This funding will be enough to complete the tunnel bore.

The SFMTA does not exactly have a proactive reputation. But in this case, it should be applauded for continuing to push ahead with a major construction project, even if the last bit of money is not quite yet secured. This money has been crawling through the pipeline for years.

The Central Subway line will be a major asset to San Francisco, and local and federal officials need to present a united front to finalize the funding as soon as possible.


Mr. OLVER. I oppose this amendment strongly, but not because I like a VMT, particularly, and not that I do not understand that in rural areas this can be very burdensome. However, we have to have additional revenue. The reason our infrastructure is in decline is simple: We're simply not raising enough revenue.

We haven't decided how to raise revenue to fund our infrastructure needs. Yet we have report after report from the American Society of Civil Engineers with an infrastructure report card that gives us a D, estimating that more than $2 trillion in investment is needed in our system, a gap of at least $27 billion each year, from the DOT's own most recent conditions and performance report. There is a $27 billion per year gap just to maintain the current system of highways and bridges in a state of good repair.

The gas tax has not been raised since 1993. The total amount of revenue that was raised 10 years ago is only a couple of billion dollars lower than it is now 10-11 years later. We know that the vehicles that are being produced now, correctly, and we must do this, are more efficient than they were earlier and so gasoline tax doesn't bring in as much money. That's fine, but you still have to have the revenue to build a transportation infrastructure program that is going to be good that will keep the economy of the country strong. Every good and every product of this country has to move along an efficient transportation system covering all of our modes of transportation and has to be kept up, in good repair.

And for the major population growth which continues at 10 percent every decade with all these major metropolitan areas going up and up and up in population, you have to have a lot of new infrastructure built and you have to maintain the old infrastructure in the older communities or everybody is going to be behind. Even the rural areas, even though many of them, and in the gentleman's poor part of the country, there are States where more than half, several States, at least 10 States that have more than half of all of their counties losing population. But to allow the infrastructure, the highway system to fall apart in those places, means you doom those areas to an economic future which is going to be very bleak, indeed.

So the amendment, it's unfortunate because we are probably going to have to use different kinds of money-raising mechanisms in different parts of the country. This one makes it not possible for the administration to even think about using the vehicle miles tax even in the urban, major urban areas of the country.

In any case, I oppose the amendment. I know quite well what the result of my opposition is going to be, but I think ultimately, we somehow have to gain the courage and the will to raise the revenue that is necessary in order to keep our economy strong.

The transportation system in its totality represents close to 25 percent of the whole economy in this country. You cannot have a viable, robust economy with the jobs that we need if we do not figure out how to do what's needed in all parts of the country. So I oppose the amendment.


Mr. OLVER. I would like to continue this conversation for another moment or two, and that will save me time rather than having to figure out how to get my own time, Mr. Chairman. Somewhere along the way, it will come back to me. But in the midst of the discussion, I'm not likely to come up with it very easily.

In any case, I recognize exactly what the chairman of the committee is saying. It will be interesting to see what the authorizers come up with. I hope you had some ideas as to what they are going to do because the position that I am taking of the need for the infrastructure development in this country, both state of good repair, just repairing it, keeping it going, and then the additional infrastructure that is needed because of growth of populations, that is there and we must solve the problem. And it's not just the executive's problem, it's not just our problem, it's a problem for all of us, and this takes one piece, one possible piece out of the mix that could be part of the mix, simply takes it off the table, and that I object to. As somebody that is not going to be here next year when you may have to come up with a solution, I object to that being taken off the table. I oppose the amendment.


Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, the European Union has implemented an emissions trading regimen as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels. They are not succeeding very much. They are putting in a fairly hard effort to do that, but the greenhouse gas emissions continue to go up. The CO

2 percentage in the atmosphere is now, in the year 2012, about 50 percent higher than it has been at any time in the last 500,000 years and going up, continuing to go up. But we're not going to settle climate change issues tonight.

I understand that this amendment will be adopted, but the effort is going to have to eventually go on to deal with our climate change.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. OLVER. Again, I understand my very limited position here on this one, but I do rise in opposition to the amendment.

I am a strong supporter of the Sustainable Communities Program, and I am disappointed that there is no funding in this bill for sustainable communities. I have heard complaints that the Sustainable Communities Program isn't authorized. Well, neither is the CDBG program authorized, yet we include funding for that program in the bill and have for many years. It has not been individually authorized in quite some period of time.

The program actually has some good purposes. It integrates Federal, State and local investment activity in housing, land use, economic and workforce development, and transportation. At a time when we're under budget constraints, it's fairly important, if not critical, that the support for regional and local planning is available to help localities invest limited resources strategically in order to achieve the greatest short- and long-term benefits for citizens.

In the first 2 years, which is the 2 years that the program has been used--and it is a pilot program, basically, a demonstration program--it has been used in both urban and rural areas and in areas that are a little more than a city or a metropolitan area or that are a small group of counties up to a broader group that might cross State lines, where there are interests across those State lines and where the people have wanted to do it.

It was always one purely of applications from groups of people at the local level as well as from organizations at the local and regional levels that would put forward proposals to do that kind of integration and joint planning with the Federal Government, the State governments, and the local governments as to how they wanted to see their areas grow.

So I think it is an activity that we ought to have some opportunity for, but I know that that's not going to happen tonight. I simply regret that that is the way things are. I do oppose the amendment, but know that it will be adopted.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. OLVER. I will be very brief.

I serve on the Homeland Security Subcommittee for Appropriations, and I don't think that the Homeland Security authorizers have done anything along these lines, and that's where it really ought to be dealt with, I would think.

So I will agree with what you're doing.


Mr. OLVER. The issue here seems to be--and I don't know this very well. The issue seems to be that there have been cases where discrimination has occurred, and it has been adjudicated as having occurred when there was no intent to do so in the first place.

In a recent HUD action, this impact was used to protect the rights of women who were evicted because they were victims of domestic violence. Well, there was no intent to discriminate against the victims of the domestic violence, but that's what it was that has been adjudicated in this particular case.

Cases of this sort have been brought before 11, I think, of the 13 appeals courts at this point, and the rule which HUD has put forward, the so-called disparate impact rule, comes out of their understanding of the cases before the appeals courts where discrimination was determined legally in the appeals courts to have occurred.

So the idea that the gentleman is putting forward of prohibiting the finalization of the disparate impact rule which rises out of these cases before the appeals court seems to me to be exactly the opposite thing that should be done. Unless you get to a point where the appeals court gets to a higher court, which I guess the higher court is the Supreme Court of the United States, and they overturn the positions that have been taken by these several appeals courts in rather similar cases, then HUD is doing exactly what they need to do.

So I must rise in opposition to this. All of the people in the authorizing side of this are saying--at least on my side of the authorization process, which means the ranking member of the authorizing committee here--is opposed to this amendment. Mr. Frank, the ranking member of the Housing Subcommittee, also opposes, I think, for roughly the reason that I have articulated here. So the gentleman is trying to stop the process.


Mr. OLVER. Reclaiming my time, we have no idea whether the Supreme Court will take this case. In the meantime, until such time it is taken and they do it, and we can't assume that, then the actions of HUD are proper in reaching a disparate impact rule that adheres to the findings in the several appeals courts. My staff tells me it is 11 of the appeals courts have reached similar decisions which are adhered to by the HUD impact rule proposed.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, I'm happy to congratulate the gentleman from Louisiana for his solution, but I have to admit that I cannot identify what the problem is that this solution solves.

This language that you are excluding has been in the legislation for years, before I think I was--the earliest time I was in the ranking membership of the Transportation Subcommittee, and that of course was several years before I chaired the Transportation Subcommittee. I think it has been in the language all that time and never come up. So there has been no problem that we solved where it has never been used. That flexibility has never been used to transfer money from some place in order to put money into the EAS program.

So, yes, you have a solution, but I don't know what the problem is.


Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, there are no funds made available in this Act for high-speed rail. None. And so, since this is a 1-year bill, I don't think this amendment does very much.

The gentleman from California has a problem with a process that has been going on now for at least a decade in the development of a high-speed rail process program, and the people of California have spoken on this by referendum. They have passed the bond bill by referendum. I think bond bills usually take an extraordinary vote, two-thirds vote or something like that. Am I correct?

Would the gentleman from California confirm that it was a two-thirds vote by which the referendum was passed?

I yield to the gentleman.


Mr. OLVER. Well, that can be established if they actually have a referendum that repeals what they have done. But there has been--as we know, California has received about $4 billion of moneys from the Federal Government from earlier funds in earlier bills which have already been obligated or are about to be obligated. And actions on this bill would not have anything to do with the obligation of those funds, would not be in effect at any time that could affect the obligation of those funds because they have to be obligated before the end of this fiscal year, where this bill is certainly not going to be in place in before the end of the fiscal year. But there are processes also going on. Unfortunately, we have, at the moment, no one here who is really knowledgeable precisely about what it is that's going on in California.

But let me just comment here that the proposal for the starting use of these funds has been controversial. There are people who say, well, why are we building this in the Central Valley of California? Because the first intended construction of the project has been in the Bakersfield to Fresno corridor, and then if it is extended it is then likely to be extended to the Modesto metropolitan area, or the Stockton--and/or, I think it is at Modesto that there is a bifurcation. The one link of it going then to Stockton and to Sacramento, and the other going to San Jose and San Francisco. And in either case, you have to start somewhere.

When we started to build the interstate highway system, we didn't start in the center of the cities, which would have been very complicated. We started in building those legs of the interstate highway system where it was easy to build them. And that is possible. The right of way, I think, has already been acquired by the California DOT to build the high-speed rail system in that first corridor, in the Bakersfield-Fresno and maybe on to Modesto, as I have understood the developments in the last few weeks as they go on.

So the gentleman's problem is, it seems to me, with what's already been agreed to by California and what is already going forward, moneys that have, some of them been obligated and in place to go, and some of them yet to be obligated, but about to be obligated.


Mr. OLVER. I think that what the chairman has said is probably about as good as it gets.

What we have now is a slightly amended version of the proposal. My understanding is that the major long-distance trucking companies are against this language and that most of the safety advocates are against this language but that there are other trucking interests that favor this language or that are happy with this language. So you have a real controversy among people.

Of the long-distance truckers and safety advocates, I would generally think that that is something we should worry about; but as the chairman has said, this is an issue that really ought to be in the hands of the authorizers and worked out by the authorizers. That may or may not be dealt with in the authorization legislation, but in any case, the limitation on funds is effective only for this 1-year appropriations bill.


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