From his perch as chairman of the U.S. House Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Committee, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., is going to play a major role as Congress mulls over the fiscal year 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill which funds the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The bill provides $71.8 billion in discretionary spending, $1.5 billion higher than last year and almost $24 billion over what the Trump administration has called for. Despite that, GOP leadership on Capitol Hill is planning to get the bill through.
“For too long, the transportation infrastructure in our nation has been neglected, which has dampened growth and efficiency. This bill will provide a much-needed boost in funding for improvements in our infrastructure system – whether it is roads, rail, transit systems, or air and waterways,” said U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-NJ, the chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, on Tuesday. “It also supports core community and housing programs to ensure shelter for our most vulnerable citizens, and to provide better opportunity for our local communities to thrive.”
Diaz Balart tipped his cap to Frelinghuysen and U.S. Rep. David Price, D-NC, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee.
“I am pleased to present this legislation that builds on the investments made to our nation’s infrastructure in last year’s bill,” Diaz-Balart said. “I worked with Chairman Frelinghuysen and Ranking Member Price to ensure vital programs continue to receive strong funding levels, while eliminating wasteful bureaucratic spending and protecting taxpayer dollars. The President has made it a priority to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, and I am glad we were able to deliver historic levels of funding for the second year in a row. This is another down payment towards rebuilding our nation’s roads, bridges and rail systems, while also providing critical housing improvements for our most vulnerable populations. I look forward to reviewing the bill with the Appropriations Committee and moving it to the floor for consideration by our colleagues.”
The bill sends $27.8 billion to the Department of Transportation for discretionary appropriations , $542 million more than last year and $11.7 billion more than what the White House wanted. The funding bill also offers almost $88 billion to repair the nation’s infrastructure. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is penciled in for $17.7 billion, $310 million less than last year but $1.6 billion more than what the White House wanted. The bill also spends $46 billion for highways, $1 billion more than last year.
While the Trump administration called for $1.1 billion for rail infrastructure and safety programs, the bill provides $3.2 billion for it, $62.5 million more than last year. The bill also sends $1.9 billion to Amtrak however it ensures there is no federal funds for high speed rail in California. The bill offers $13.6 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) which is $2.5 billion more than what the White House wanted.
The bill cuts almost $150 million from the Maritime Administration, knocking it down to $830 million which is around $134 million more than what the Trump administration requested. The Maritime Security Program remains at $300 million.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is funded at $982 million, an increase of $67 million from last year. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gets $666 million under the bill while $275 million goes to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
HUD gets $43.6 billion in discretionary funds under the proposal, up more than $940 million from last year and almost $12 billion more than what the White House wanted. Almost $31 billion will go to Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and Public and Indian Housing programs, $390 million for vouchers for the disabled, $40 million for homeless veterans,
Vouchers for Persons with Disabilities – $390 million is provided to support existing voucher holders and serve 30,000 additional non-elderly disabled households and $100 million to help Native Americans with affordable housing.
Community Planning and Development is penciled in for $7.6 billion, $115 million less than last year though Community Development Block Grants remain funded at $3.3 billion. The HOME Investment Partnerships Program is funded at $1.2 billion which is $162 million below last year. There is an increase in funds for Homeless Assistance Grants with $33 million more, with funding at $2.5 billion for the next year.
The bill also provides $12.6 billion for other housing programs, more than $100 million from last year and $655 million ore than what the White House wanted. Most of that-- $11.7 billion of the $12.6 billion--goes to Project-Based Rental Assistance which is $232 million more than last year and $600 million more than the White House requested. The bill also offers $632 million for Housing for the Elderly and $154 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities.
“I am proud to introduce this legislation that continues the work we accomplished last year towards rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,” Diaz-Balart said. "For the second year in a row, I have worked to protect hard-earned taxpayer dollars and reducing waste and abuse, while providing historic funding levels to improve our airports, roads, bridges, and seaports. In turn, this will create jobs across the country and locally, and will lead to a boost in our economy.”
The South Florida Republican turned his focus to how the bill impacts his home base.
“Right here in Southern Florida, localities can compete for the $750 million provided to the multimodal BUILD program (formerly known as TIGER) for new infrastructure projects,” Diaz-Balart said. “Our local airports can pull from the $500 million provided to Airport Grants, our community will receive needed funds from the $4.25 billion provided for Highway Grants, and our bus and rail systems can benefit from the $2.6 billion provided for Capital Investment Grants or the $800 million provided for transit infrastructure grants. With this bill, our local community is empowered to revitalize the roads, bridges, buses, and rail lines we use every day.
“Expanding access to affordable housing is also emphasized in this legislation,” he continued. “Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) are funded at $3.3 billion dollars, providing localities with the opportunity to apply for grants that address community development, poverty, and other infrastructure needs. Also included is $1.2 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which leverages this funding with private investments to create more affordable housing options. Housing for the elderly is funded at $632 million dollars, vouchers for disabled citizens is funded at $390 million dollars, and housing assistance for those living with HIV/AIDS is funded at $393 million dollars. I am confident we are helping those with the most need in this legislation.”
READ MORE FROM SUNSHINE STATE NEWS