Statement for the Record on the FY 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill
Mr. Chair, I rise today in opposition to the House FY15 Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill. Today's bill lands with the same sound as its abbreviation ..... THUD.
While I appreciate the hard work of Chairman Latham, Ranking Member Pastor, and their dedicated Appropriations staff, our insufficient 302(b) allocation, made worse with lower than expected FHA and Ginnie Mae receipts, makes this bill's funding levels unacceptable. Simply put, the House bill would make sustaining and improving our nation's infrastructure impossible, a task made more difficult by years and years of deferred maintenance.
On the transportation side, the bill makes deep cuts to the capital programs and job creating infrastructure investments. Amtrak is cut by $200 million despite record ridership; the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program is cut by $252 million, stifling the shovel-ready projects; and the TIGER program is cut by more than 80 percent, despite the program's popularity and success at advancing critical surface transportation projects across the country, with thousands of meritorious proposals still unfunded. And, once again, the bill includes no funding for progress towards a high speed rail system.
Funding for community development and housing safety-net programs is even worse. The bill would cut funding for the HOME program by 30 percent to $700 million, the lowest level in the program's history. The bill would also limit the ability for our country to maintain and improve our nation's public housing stock by funding the Public Housing Capital Fund below the sequester level and would only provide a paltry $25 million for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, the successor program of Hope VI program and our only comprehensive public housing revitalization program.
Additionally, the bill would force public housing agencies to turn needy families away from shelter by significantly underfunding the administrative fees needed to run the housing voucher program, the best hope of thousands of America's poorest families for safe and decent housing.
Another program that provides housing to vulnerable Americans in my district and many others is the Housing for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program. Despite benefiting from an amendment in the Appropriations Committee, the bill before us today would cut HOPWA by more than $24 million below last year's funding level.
Perhaps the most disappointing and regrettable fact about this bill is that the cuts it imposes could have been avoided, had the Republican leadership understood that we cannot cut our way into fiscal balance. House leaders could reconsider their refusal to talk with the President and work with him to address the real drivers of the deficit--tax expenditures and mandatory spending. Instead, they have again and again slashed critical domestic investments.
We must rid ourselves of unworkable budget caps and sequestration, lifting the drag they represent on our economy and the mockery they make of the appropriations process. The bill before us today is Exhibit A of this travesty, and I urge my colleagues to raise their voices and their votes against it.