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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), delivered remarks on the Senate floor as the Senate begins consideration of the fiscal year 2015 THUD appropriations bill. Murray highlighted that the bipartisan bill makes key investments in families, communities, and long-term economic growth, and urged colleagues to support it. Murray also explained that a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund would put funding in the THUD bill at risk, and called on Congress to work together to avoid an unnecessary crisis.

Key Excerpts from Senator Murray’s Remarks:

“Today, we’ve got more certainty thanks to the two-year budget agreement. And building on the bipartisan work we all did to reach that agreement, the Members of our Committee, Senator Collins and I have been able to put together a transportation and housing bill that makes responsible investments in infrastructure and community development, and helps protect the most vulnerable among us.”

“Less than two weeks ago, the Appropriations Committee approved the transportation and housing bill by a vote of 29 to one, an extremely strong show of bipartisan support. This bill received such remarkable support because it helps families and communities, it gets workers back on the job. and it lays down a strong foundation for long-term and broad-based economic growth.”

“I note that most of its transportation funding – a total of just over $50 billion – comes from the Highway Trust Fund.   But right now, the Highway Trust Fund is headed toward a crisis…And, if Congress doesn’t act, a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund will put at risk the funding that we have included here in the THUD bill. We need immediate action to solve this crisis – well before October, when the new fiscal year starts.   And we need to work together to avoid this unnecessary and preventable crisis.”

“Investing in families, communities, and long-term economic growth shouldn’t be partisan issues— and I think the bipartisan work that went into this bill, and the strong support it received in committee, proves that it doesn’t have to be.”

Full Text of Senator Murray’s Remarks:

“Mr. President, I am pleased that the Senate is now considering appropriations bills that fund important segments of the federal government.  These include the agencies responsible for  Scientific research, justice and nutrition programs, as well as The Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

“It has been some time since we have been able to fund the operations of the government through regular order, so it is encouraging that leaders on both sides of the aisle have been able to work together to pursue that goal.

“As we consider these bills, I think it’s helpful to remember where we were at this time last year. We were unable to start a budget conference, there was a government shutdown looming just a few months ahead, and businesses and families across the country had absolutely no certainty about whether their government could even keep the lights on.

“Today, we’ve got more certainty thanks to the two-year budget agreement. And building on the bipartisan work we all did to reach that agreement, the Members of our Committee, Senator Collins and I have been able to put together a transportation and housing bill that makes responsible investments in infrastructure and community development, and helps protect the most vulnerable among us. 

“Less than two weeks ago, the Appropriations Committee approved the transportation and housing bill by a vote of 29 to one, an extremely strong show of bipartisan support. This bill received such remarkable support because it helps families and communities, it gets workers back on the job. and it lays down a strong foundation for long-term and broad-based economic growth.

“And it does this in a manner that’s fiscally responsible, with growth of just a little more than one percent over the fiscal year 2014 level when looking at the program funding levels and factoring in FHA receipts, which vary from year to year.  After adjusting for inflation, the funding in this bill is actually two-and-a-half percent less than what it was in fiscal year 2008, a result of the spending cuts we’ve applied to discretionary appropriations. 

“Mr. President, this bill is timely; it makes critical, targeted investments to address concerns that have developed over the past year.

“In light of the dramatic growth in domestic energy production, it includes new resources to strengthen oversight of energy shipments by rail to keep our communities safe, including funding for additional rail safety and hazardous materials inspectors, training for first responders, more track inspections, research into the volatility of crude oil, and requirements for stronger tank car designs.

“The bill includes $10 million to improve vehicle safety defects analysis and investigations to help ensure we do not see a repeat of the Department of Transportation’s failure to detect unsafe parts in General Motors’ and other manufacturers’ vehicles.

“This bill provides an additional 10,000 vouchers to move us closer to finally eliminating homelessness among our Nation’s veterans.  Due to these investments, we have been able to reduce the number of homeless veterans on our nation’s streets by 24 percent since 2010, and we are well on our way to eliminating it altogether.

“Our bill includes direction to help communities implement the Violence Against Women Act in federal housing programs, as well as resources to improve coordination between housing programs and domestic violence survivor services.

“It makes it possible for HUD to support youth aging out of foster care, giving them more time to find stability and save money – thereby helping to reduce the elevated risk of homelessness facing these vulnerable young people.

“The bill invests in our communities.  It provides $3 billion for Community Development grants to states and local governments to help communities fund projects that meet their unique needs and support efforts to create jobs, and $950 million for the HOME program to help create affordable housing.

“It ensures the FAA has sufficient funding to continue rebuilding its workforce after the disruptive effects of last year’s sequestration.  It fully funds the FAA’s airport grants and research programs, as well as the contract towers and Essential Air Service programs that so many rural communities depend upon.

“It includes sufficient funding for HUD’s housing and homeless assistance programs to preserve this vital piece of the nation’s safety net.  More than half of the 5.4 million very low-income households that depend upon the housing assistance provided in this bill include someone who is elderly, disabled, or both.  Without these programs, many of these individuals would be homeless.

“The bill includes $90 million for Choice Neighborhoods, which helps tear down and rebuild distressed public housing, as well as language making it possible for more local authorities to access private capital through the Rental Assistance Demonstration to renovate aging housing stock.

“And, notably, it includes reforms to make the programs in the bill more accountable and effective.

“These include provisions to make it easier for public housing authorities to manage their capital and operations needs, as well as resources for HUD to use the lessons it has learned since Hurricane Katrina to develop templates that communities can quickly implement to speed recovery efforts following a disaster. 

“The bill streamlines environmental reviews for Native American housing.

“It works to ensure accountability for property owners that don’t maintain the quality of their HUD-assisted housing, and increase accountability in the CDBG program. 

“Mr. President, our bill also makes tough choices.  To fund increases for inflation and other uncontrollable costs, we made the difficult choice of trimming funding for programs that Members care about, including the TIGER and HOME programs. 

“In short, our bill is a good bill.

“I note that most of its transportation funding – a total of just over $50 billion – comes from the Highway Trust Fund.   But right now, the Highway Trust Fund is headed toward a crisis.

“The Department of Transportation expects the balances in the fund to reach critical levels later this summer.  To deal with this uncertainty, states are already bracing for the worst case scenario. And some states, like Arkansas, have already put projects on hold.

“This crisis could also hurt workers in the construction industry who depend on jobs repairing roads and bridges.

“And, if Congress doesn’t act, a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund will put at risk the funding that we have included here in the THUD bill. We need immediate action to solve this crisis – well before October, when the new fiscal year starts.   And we need to work together to avoid this unnecessary and preventable crisis.

“But in the meantime, I am glad that we are turning to the transportation and housing bill, and getting the work of appropriations done. Together with Senator Collins, I encourage members to bring their amendments to the floor, and to work with us to make it even better.

“Mr. President, this bill enjoys broad bipartisan support because it takes a practical approach to addressing the real needs we find in the transportation and housing sectors.

“The investments it makes would improve safety, increase efficiency, and help our communities, lay down a strong foundation for long-term and broad based economic growth, and help position our country and our economy to compete and win in the 21st century global economy.

“So I urge all of my colleague to support our bipartisan bill and move us rapidly to final passage. 

“Mr. President, before I yield, I want to thank Chairwoman Mikulski for her support and leadership. As the former chair of the VA-HUD Subcommittee, she appreciates the importance of the investments in this bill. 

“This bill includes priorities of members on both sides of the aisle, reflecting the Appropriations Committee’s bipartisan tradition. So I also want to thank the entire Committee for their work. 

“And I want to take a moment to express my thanks to my Ranking Member, Senator Collins, as well as her staff, for all their hard work and cooperation throughout the process.

“I am proud that together, we’ve written a bill that works for families and communities.

“Investing in families, communities, and long-term economic growth shouldn’t be partisan issues— and I think the bipartisan work that went into this bill, and the strong support it received in committee, proves that it doesn’t have to be.

“With that, I would yield to my friend and partner, Senator Collins.”