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TRANSPORTATION/HOUSING: Senate Begins Consideration of Murray’s Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Funding Bill

Jul 23 2013

Subcommittee Chair Murray’s FY14 THUD Appropriations bill includes critical support for Washington state priorities

Murray: Funding ‘gets workers back on the job, is fiscally responsible, lays down a strong foundation for long-term and broad-based economic growth’

Watch speech

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), gave a speech on the Senate floor as the Senate begins consideration of the fiscal year 2014 THUD spending bill.  Senator Murray outlined the differences between the bipartisan Senate bill and the partisan version currently moving through the House of Representatives, which makes dangerous cuts to housing and transportation investments. Senator Murray explained how these critical investments help create jobs, promote economic development, support small businesses, and ensure our nation’s economic competitiveness into the future. 

“The investments it makes would create jobs and help the middle class right now, 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,” Senator Murray said in her speech on the Senate floor. “The approach taken by the House on their transportation and housing bill will would cut investments in a way that may make our short-term budget deficit look better on paper—but that would hurt families now, cost us far more in the long run, and would hollow out our long-term investments and potential for economic growth.”

The bill includes $500 million in new federal funding for bridges that service crucial corridors, such as the I-5 bridge that collapsed last month in Skagit County, WA, and $550 million for the popular TIGER program which provides grants for significant projects in a variety of transportation modes, including highways and bridges, public transit, passenger and freight railroads, and port infrastructure. Overall, the legislation includes $54 billion for transportation projects, housing assistance, and community development around the country, compared with $44.1 billion in the corresponding legislation in the House of Representatives.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“This bill received such strong bipartisan support because it helps families and communities, it gets workers back on the job, it’s fiscally responsible, and it lays down a strong foundation for long-term and broad-based economic growth.”

“The approach taken by the House should concern all of us.  Because this isn’t about politics—it’s about our country.  Investing in infrastructure is something that brings together the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, major labor groups like the AFL-CIO,  and economists and policy experts across the political spectrum. Because as any business owner will tell you, no matter how challenging the current environment is, you never want to cut the investments that will allow you to compete and prosper once the crisis ends.” 

“The fact is that if we slash our investments in infrastructure—we aren’t really saving money at all—we are just making things worse. We are weakening our basis for private investment and economic growth, we are putting public safety at risk, and we are allowing congestion to continue taxing families with painfully long commutes, long waits at airports, and health-threatening pollution.” 

“Roads are going to need to be fixed eventually— bridges will need to be strengthened at some point before they collapse, the air traffic control system will have to be modernized before air travel becomes too unreliable, and waiting will only make the work more expensive when we eventually do it.  It’s shortsighted and it just doesn’t make sense. That is why the bipartisan Senate bill supports critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure that are necessary to support and grow our economy.” 

“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 opening statement below:

“Mr. President, we spend far too much time here in the Senate scrambling to address short-term crises—and far too little time working together to tackle the serious long-term challenges facing our nation.

“That is why I am very pleased that the Senate will soon be considering the fiscal year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. 

“The transportation and housing bill received strong bipartisan support as it moved through the Appropriations Committee. 

“It was reported out of subcommittee unanimously, and on June 27th, the Members of the Full Committee voted 22 to 8 to report the bill to the Senate.

“This bill received such strong bipartisan support because it helps families and communities, it gets workers back on the job, it’s fiscally responsible, and it lays down a strong foundation for long-term and broad-based economic growth.

“Our transportation and housing bill is very different from the one moving through the House of Representatives right now, which passed their committee on a strict party-line vote.

“The Senate bill funds the highly successful TIGER program to ensure support for transportation projects of national or regional significance.  The House bill zeroes that funding out, and even takes away TIGER funding provided for the current year.

“The Senate bill provides $500 million to make necessary repairs to the nation’s bridges, when one in four bridges across the country is classified as ‘deficient’. The House bill does not provide this funding.

“Our bipartisan bill fully funds the Essential Air Service program, the House bill kicks communities out of the program, and then shortchanges the program.

“It protects investments in our aviation infrastructure, while the House bill cuts spending we need to maintain and modernize the air traffic system by more than half a billion dollars,  to the lowest level since fiscal year 2000, more than a decade ago.

“The Senate bill maintains funding for the CDBG and HOME programs, while the House bill proposes to cut both to their lowest levels ever.

“It preserves the federal commitment to the mostly elderly and disabled tenants of public housing and section 8 project-based housing, while the intentional short-funding of both programs in the House bill would ultimately lead to their demise.

“The House bill falls short in these and so many other areas because its investment level is simply untenable. 

“It is even lower than sequestration levels, and without adequate resources to fund core transportation and housing programs, it cuts deeply and broadly—and few programs escape the axe.

“Mr. President, the approach taken by the House should concern all of us. 

“Because this isn’t about politics—it’s about our country.

“Investing in infrastructure is something that brings together the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, major labor groups like the AFL-CIO,  and economists and policy experts across the political spectrum.

“Because as any business owner will tell you, no matter how challenging the current environment is, you never want to cut the investments that will allow you to compete and prosper once the crisis ends. 

“There are plenty of independent assessments showing that right now we aren’t investing enough in our aging infrastructure – and none suggesting we invest too much.

“The fact is that if we slash our investments in infrastructure—we aren’t really saving money at all—we are just making things worse.

“We are weakening our basis for private investment and economic growth, we are putting public safety at risk, and we are allowing congestion to continue taxing families with painfully long commutes, long waits at airports, and health-threatening pollution. 

“Roads are going to need to be fixed eventually— bridges will need to be strengthened at some point before they collapse, the air traffic control system will have to be modernized before air travel becomes too unreliable, and waiting will only make the work more expensive when we eventually do it.

“It’s shortsighted and it just doesn’t make sense.

“That is why the bipartisan Senate bill supports critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure that are necessary to support and grow our economy. 

“The investments included here make it possible for people to get to work and products to market.

“And because other countries are investing in their infrastructure as quickly as they can—investments here in America are a key factor in making sure our country can compete and win in the 21st century global economy. 

“Our bipartisan bill also supports our local communities’ efforts to promote economic development, support small businesses and create affordable housing. 

“These investments help create jobs and are also necessary to ensure our nation’s economic competitiveness into the future. 

“This bill funds a critical piece of the safety net – housing assistance and homeless shelters – for millions of families that are one step from the street. 

“It moves us closer to finally eliminating homelessness among our nation’s veterans.

“The need for these investments far exceeds the resources in this bill, but here in the Senate, we have been able to keep our commitment to our states and communities,  and ensure the agencies in the bill can meet their statutory responsibilities.

“The House bill’s untenable investment level and commitment to sequestration makes these commitments impossible to keep. 

“Mr. President, the Senate bill also works to improve the programs funded, including reforms that address concerns members raised the last time the transportation and housing bill came to the Senate floor. 

“ Our bipartisan bill includes important section 8 reforms to reduce costs and create efficiencies. 

“It contains reforms to improve the oversight of public housing agencies and boards, ensure accountability for property owners that don’t maintain the quality of their HUD-assisted housing,  and increase accountability in the CDBG program. 

“The House bill does not include any of these reforms.

“Our bill also continues to require oversight by the offices of inspectors general and GAO, and incorporate their findings in the bill’s guidance to agencies. 

“Mr. President, in short, our bill is a good bill.

“And 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 has 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 create jobs and help the middle class right now, 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.

“The approach taken by the House on their transportation and housing bill would cut investments in a way that may make our short-term budget deficit look better on paper—but that would hurt families now, cost us far more in the long run, and would hollow out our long-term investments and potential for economic growth.

“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 my entire Subcommittee for their work. 

“And I want to take a moment to express my thanks to my Ranking Member, Senator Collins, for all her 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.”