CONGRESS PASSES SPENDING BILL

After weeks of partisan bickering and a near government shutdown, the United States House and Senate passed a fiscal year 2011 spending bill with the largest cuts in domestic discretionary spending in history. The compromise bill, H.R. 1473, which House and Senate leadership and the White House agreed to shortly before the deadline, slashed nearly $40 billion from federal programs, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

Throughout the negotiation process, cities and towns fought hard to preserve funding for the CDBG program, one of the most effective federal programs that serves as a catalyst for economic recovery and job creation in communities of all sizes. Under the agreement, CDBG would be funded at $3.3 billion – or $600 million less – than in fiscal year 2010, but $1.8 billion more than the program would have received in an earlier House-passed measure, H.R. 1.

In response to the vote, NLC Executive Director Donald J. Borut, said, “While we are grateful that the House and Senate agreed to fund CDBG and other programs important to cities and towns at higher levels than in H.R. 1, cuts to these programs of any amount will mean that cities will be forced to cut programs and services at the local level, which will very likely lead to layoffs and a drag on economic recovery in our communities.”

In addition to cuts to CDBG, the HOME program loses nearly $200 million in funding, but the Choice Neighborhoods and Sustainable Communities programs, both of which would have been eliminated under H.R. 1, would each be funded at $100 million for fiscal year 2011.

Under the measure, the federal highway program is cut by nearly $900 million and funding for high speed rail, a priority for President Obama, would be eliminated. However, the measure does include $528 million for the National Infrastructure Investment Grants program, which would be modeled after the popular TIGER program; under H.R. 1, this program would have been eliminated.

After completing their work on the fiscal year 2011 spending, members of Congress headed home for a two-week recess.

When they return in May, they will face potentially even more contentious debates involving fiscal year 2012 spending, the country’s debt ceiling and disagreements on how to reduce the country’s $14 trillion deficit.

“Clearly, there will continue to be pressure on Congress and the Administration to reduce federal spending,” Borut said. “That’s why city officials must continue to impress upon federal policymakers the essential nature of these programs have in our communities and for our families. Now is not the time to be silent hoping they already know this to be the case.”

The article above was reprinted with permission from the National League of Cities.


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