Senators Express Support for CDBG

Article excerpt

Thanks to the advocacy efforts of local elected officials, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program continues to benefit from strong bipartisan support in Congress. Although Congressional support will likely prevent any attempted funding cuts, it isn't clear if bipartisan support will translate into significant funding gains.

All four of the senators--Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.)--who spoke at a general session of the Congressional City Conference last week expressed support for the program.

The Senate Budget Committee's proposal, released last week, would fund the CDBG program at the FY2007 level rate, but adjusted for inflation, at $3.8 billion. Sens. Coleman and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) are spearheading efforts to increase that to $4.1 billion during the appropriations process.

Leahy and Coleman authored a letter to the Senate Budget Committee urging an increase in funding. Specifically, the letter urges the Budget Committee to reject the Administration's proposed 20 percent cut to CDBG and to increase funding to $4.1 billion for fiscal year 2008. Fifty-one senators, including those who addressed the Congressional City Conference, have signed onto the letter.

Meanwhile, in the House, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) will lead an effort to seek a 5 percent increase for the CDBG program. Frank, speaking to a conference of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said that he will seek increases for CDBG and other programs as part of a larger effort to increase funding for federal housing efforts overall, and the HUD budget in particular. In a Financial Services Committee hearing on March 15, Chairman Frank asked HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson about the President's proposal to cut CDBG and told him, "I do not think there are 10 members who will pay attention to that proposal."

Senators Speak at Congressional City Conference

Coleman

Coleman, former mayor of St. Paul, Minn., said community development should be a top priority for the domestic agenda, which should include increasing funding for CDBG.

He also brought up three more issues that he believes need to be addressed--renewable energy, global competitiveness and working together to decrease crime.

America's dependence on energy puts direct impact on the nation's security, according to Coleman. He believes it will be a win-win situation if the U.S. finds energy alternatives and that technology will be the key to that success.

Coleman also stressed the importance of educating children in America so, as adults, they'll be good candidates for jobs that may normally be outsourced to other countries.

"We now can tell our kids 'go do your homework because people in China and Africa will be hungry for your job.'"

A small budget for decreasing crime will be a big problem later, according to Coleman. That's why he believes it's necessary to fight for funding for initiatives such the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

He urged bipartisan cooperation on these and other issues in order to move the country forward.

As a former mayor, Coleman said he identifies closely with NLC's membership.

"I wish there were more former mayors in the U.S. Senate, Coleman said. "We'd be a lot better off."

Clinton

Clinton called for federal investment in local governments, because cities must be healthy for the nation to prosper.

"Running your cities becomes a zero-sum game. Every day you're robbing Peter to pay Paul, and too many of our families are paying the price," she said. "I think we should restore the fundamental principle that I grew up with and that I think most of us have tried to live by: You don't spend what you don't have on what you don't need. We need to replace the economic policy of borrow and squander with the tried and true policy of save and invest. …