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Chairman Price Opening Statement: Committee Markup of the FY 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

June 4, 2019
Speeches

Committee Markup of the FY 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

June 4, 2019

 

Good morning, everyone.  I am proud to present the Fiscal Year 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. 

 

First, I’d like to thank my partner in this effort, Ranking Member Diaz-Balart, for his cooperative and collaborative approach.  He has been a pleasure to work with over the last several years, both as our Chair and now Ranking Member.  I’d also like to thank full committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey for her leadership, Ranking Member Kay Granger, and all the members of this committee. 

 

I’m pleased to report we were able to accommodate more than 90 percent of the Member requests from both sides of the aisle.  I hope we can continue to move forward in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation as we seek to secure a bipartisan deal on overall budget caps. 

 

I’d also like to take a moment to thank the professional staff that assist us each step of the way.  Our clerk, Joe Carlile, and his minority counterpart, Doug Disrud, have done a fantastic job.  Our “THUD” team also includes Gladys Barcena, Winnie Chang, Jo Eckert, Sarah Puro, Angela Ohm, and Becky Salay.  I’d also like to thank Sean Maxwell on my personal staff.  I appreciate all your hard work these past few months.

 

Overview

This year’s bill represents a positive, inclusive vision for our country that will benefit all Americans.  It includes $75.8 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $4.7 billion over the 2019 enacted level and $17.3 billion above the President’s budget request.  While this allocation is certainly generous, we still faced tough trade-offs due to more than $1 billion in ever-increasing annual renewal costs for housing programs and a $2 billion reduction in offsetting receipts.

 

Despite these headwinds, our favorable allocation allowed us to make significant and meaningful investments in three priority areas: infrastructure, safety, and protecting vulnerable populations. 

 

Our full slate of hearings in the spring informed our approach, and we heard testimony from a diverse array of expert witnesses on:

  • affordable housing production,
  • climate resiliency,
  • fair housing enforcement,
  • passenger rail development, and other key topics. 

 

The questions from our subcommittee members and resulting discussion, coupled with our traditional budget oversight hearings, proved invaluable as we drafted this bill.

 

Infrastructure

Our nation is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and this bill dedicates new resources to address it.  Section 8 vouchers are fully renewed.  We increase funding for the HOME program by $500 million and provide the CDBG program with a $300 million increase above last year’s enacted level.  The HOME funding alone translates to more than 30,000 additional units of affordable housing and will generate jobs and economic activity across the country. 

 

We also provide increased funding for public housing capital and operating expenses, including resources to address carbon monoxide exposure, lead, and other emergency health hazards. 

 

Our renewed focus on affordable housing and community development does not come at the expense of vital transportation programs.  To the contrary, the bill includes $1 billion for BUILD grants, formerly called the TIGER program, while maintaining parity between urban and rural awards. 

 

We continue the model established by this subcommittee in the last two fiscal years by providing $3 billion in additional discretionary resources above the FAST Act authorized levels for highways, transit, and aviation projects.  This funding will benefit every state and territory in the nation by making new projects possible or accelerating existing ones. 

 

Competitive rail programs like CRISI are also robustly funded, and Amtrak receives approximately $2 billion for the Northeast Corridor and national network.  We also allocate additional resources for port infrastructure development and maritime programs.

 

Safety

These investments must be paired with a renewed commitment to safety from DOT and HUD, state and local partners, and industry.  Rising accident rates on our nation’s highways, the high-profile MAX 8 crashes, the deployment of autonomous systems across all modes, and lead and carbon monoxide hazards in our federally-assisted housing require us to redouble our efforts.  The subcommittee provides resources to meet these problems head-on.

 

For example, the bill increases the FAA’s aviation safety office budget by 20 percent to ensure there are enough inspectors, engineers, and technicians to oversee the certification process and other vital safety functions.  We provide additional rulemaking and enforcement resources to improve highway safety, and we dedicate $10 million to create a new “Highly Autonomous Systems Safety Center of Excellence” within USDOT.  This center will bolster the department’s in-house capacity to examine, audit, inspect, and certify these complex systems across all modes. 

 

Vulnerable Populations

We also prioritize assistance for vulnerable populations.  Nearly $240 million is provided for construction of new housing units for the elderly and disabled.  Programs serving veterans, the homeless, people with AIDS, domestic violence survivors, and youth aging out of foster care are robustly funded, including resources for new vouchers.  Fair housing enforcement grants, housing counseling, and self-sufficiency programs also receive more resources.  These programs are integral to ensuring all Americans have access to housing and can reach their full potential.

 

The bill prohibits the Department from repealing the Equal Access rule that protects LGBT people when they utilize housing services, and it reinstates HUD’s guidance to assist housing providers as they comply with the rule.  The bill also prevents HUD from moving forward with its heartless proposal regarding mixed-status families in federally-subsidized housing.  By the Department’s own admission, this plan would jeopardize the housing security of 55,000 children—all of whom are U.S. citizens or legal residents. 

 

Resilience

Finally, I am proud that this legislation lays the groundwork to fully integrate resiliency principles—beyond disaster recovery—into the full range of federal programs that fund transportation and community development projects. 

 

It requires HUD grantees to think about storms and other hazards as they utilize HOME and CDBG funding.  The Transportation Research Board is tasked with developing specific resiliency metrics and performance standards for infrastructure projects.  The bill also encourages all transportation and housing projects to use the most current building codes or engineering specifications during construction.

 

These provisions will help ensure that the federal government remains an active partner alongside states and local communities as they grapple with climate change and extreme storms. 

 

Closing

This year’s T-HUD bill makes forward-looking investments in our housing and transportation infrastructure, while ensuring concerted attention to safety, the needs of the most vulnerable, and resilience.  It will benefit all American communities – urban and rural – and lays the foundation for economic growth and opportunity.  I look forward to working with all of you, and our House colleagues, to enact it into law.