Price Opening Statement at T-HUD Subcommittee Markup
Washington, DC – Congressman David E. Price (NC-04), Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, made the following opening statement at the subcommittee markup of the FY2016 T-HUD Appropriations bill.
"I want to congratulate Chairman Diaz-Balart on completing his first bill as the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Subcommittee. He has been open and accessible throughout this process and receptive to concerns that subcommittee Members have raised. It has been a pleasure working with him.
"As I stated at the Full Committee markup of the 302b allocations, the allocation for the transportation and housing appropriations bill is woefully inadequate. Despite the increase over last year’s allocation, the reality is that once you factor in declining FHA receipts and increased Section 8 renewal costs, this bill is actually $1.5 billion below last year’s funding level. The Chairman was dealt a very difficult hand, and as a result, we are not investing enough in our housing and transportation infrastructure to maintain it, let alone expand it.
"At some point the House majority will need to accept the fact that our strength is not just measured by the size of our military. It is measured in the number of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs we produce to drive the growth of cutting-edge industries; the advances of our research against dread diseases; and by our efforts to make our infrastructure the envy of the world again.
"The House majority has stood in the way of the sort of broad budget agreement that balanced the budget in the 1990s. The House has failed to seriously address the main drivers of the deficit – tax expenditures and entitlement spending – returning again and again to appropriations, and especially critical domestic investments, to bear the whole brunt of deficit reduction. The result is a disaster for our economy and for the work of most of our appropriations subcommittees.
"So while I appreciate the majority’s plan to push forward with all twelve appropriations bills, we should not pretend that these bills have the resources necessary to meet our challenges as a nation.
"I want to thank the Chairman for including $100 million for the TIGER program and $20 million for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. Both programs could utilize more funding to address the great need to improve and modernize our nation’s transportation and housing infrastructure, but I am pleased they are funded at least nominally in the base bill, and look forward to working with the Chairman to improve the funding in these areas as the process moves along.
"While the bill before us provides adequate funding to maintain the critical safety functions of the Department of Transportation and provides support for existing tenants in HUD-assisted housing, this allocation put the Chairman in a position where he had to make deep cuts to capital programs within DOT and HUD – the very programs that create jobs and boost the economy.
"On the housing side, the bill contains $1.68 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund--a $225 million cut from last year. If enacted, this level would be about the same as the funding level in 1989. Given that new maintenance needs accrue at $3.4 billion per year, this level of funding would cover less than half of annual maintenance needs, while doing nothing to address the $25 billion backlog of deferred maintenance.
"In transportation, the bill cuts the Federal Aviation Administration’s capital program by $355 million below the request and $100 million below last year. Funding at these levels will hamper FAA’s ability to maintain and improve aging facilities and slow down development progress on the agency’s NextGen program. The bill also cuts funding for Amtrak by 12 percent below last year and slashes the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment grant program by 8 percent below last year and 41 percent below the President’s request.
"Finally, I am strongly opposed to the policy riders that were attached to this bill. Controversial riders generally should not be included on an appropriations bill, and those on truck length and weight have no place in particular, given that the authorizers are actively working on a reauthorization proposal. In addition, the bill continues to delay full implementation of DOT’s hours of service rule, despite the fact that the study we requested last year is underway. While the bill funds DOT’s safety functions on the one hand, I am concerned that these modifications are a calculated effort by the trucking industry to put their bottom line above driver safety.
"With a multi-year, bipartisan broad-based budget agreement, I remain hopeful that this bill can be improved as it goes through the appropriations process and that we ultimately can remove controversial riders. I look forward to working with the Chairman as we move forward so that we can craft a final bill that can garner bipartisan support."