PRICE OPENING STATEMENT AT TRANSPORTATION-HOUSING APPROPRIATIONS MARKUP
Mr. Chairman, I want to begin by commending you for the open, collaborative, and bipartisan process you have led this spring, culminating with the fiscal year 2017 T-HUD bill before us. In your tenure as Chairman, you have continued to accommodate Subcommittee Members on both sides of the aisle, and it’s been a pleasure working with you again this year.
As you have already stated, this year’s mark includes $58.19 billion for critical transportation, housing, and community development programs at DOT, HUD, and related agencies. This represents an increase over last year’s funding level and reflects a much more favorable allocation than when we started this process last year. Although I don’t agree with everything in this bill—particularly several problematic policy riders that I will seek to remove at full Committee—I’m supportive of the Chairman’s mark.
In particular, I want to thank the Chairman for including $450 million for the TIGER program and $100 million for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. Both programs remain critical in our efforts to improve and modernize our nation’s transportation and housing infrastructure, and I look forward to working with the Chairman as well as our Senate colleagues to ensure maximum funding for these programs as the process moves forward.
I’d also like to highlight substantial increases in funding for several other important programs under our Subcommittee’s purview. First, the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants program would receive $323 million over last year’s funding level, allowing us to fund all existing grant agreements. Meanwhile, HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants program would receive $237 million more than last year’s enacted level, which will provide a significant boost to local anti-homelessness efforts across the country. I’m glad the Chairman has identified these areas as significant priorities this year.
The bill before us also provides notable funding increases for lead hazard prevention, housing counseling assistance, and consumer safety and recall activities at NHTSA. Further, the bill provides full funding for the FAA and ongoing NextGen implementation; it ensures that Amtrak is adequately funded; and it guarantees that all existing tenants in HUD-supported housing can continue to receive assistance.
It’s true that many members on this side of the aisle, myself included, could point out additional areas of need. As I’ve said many times before, having a modest budget agreement that avoids the worst impacts of sequestration is better than the alternative, but it is not enough. We still have a massive public housing capital backlog, decaying highways and bridges, and congested roads and airports; we have not constructed new rental units for the elderly or the disabled, under sections 202 and 811, for several years; and we are still far short of the comprehensive neighborhood renovation HOPE VI used to make possible.
We can never make the bold investments that are necessary to address these problems without a comprehensive, bipartisan budget deal to address the main drivers of our deficits—namely, tax expenditures and mandatory programs. The scope of this problem is much bigger than this Subcommittee or the full Appropriations Committee.
Given the fiscal constraints we are under, it’s a welcome development that this bill not only maintains core programs at both DOT and HUD, but also provides targeted funding increases for a number of important programs. The Chairman has made reasonable efforts to accommodate Democratic priorities, and I look forward to working closely with him as the process moves forward. Aside from certain policy riders, I’m pleased to support this bill and hope that my colleagues will do the same.
Thank you, and I yield back.