Ranking Member Quigley Statement at the Full Committee Markup of the 2024 Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Funding Bill

2023-07-18 10:48
Statement

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL-05), Ranking Member of the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2024 Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill:

– As Prepared For Delivery –

Thank you, Madam Chairman and Chairman Cole.

And thank you for your leadership of this subcommittee this year. I have enjoyed working with you.

This subcommittee has the ability to impact the day to day lives of every person in our country. Whether it is working to improve morning commutes to work and school, making it safer to walk, bike, or train, or fighting against the emissions that come along with moving people and goods from one place to another – transportation moves this country.

This subcommittee also gives Americans the opportunity to have a safe and stable place to call home, live close to reliable transportation, and have income leftover after paying their rent or mortgage.

Simply put, helping build communities where people can live safely in a place they feel proud to call home each day is what this subcommittee strives for.

 

Yet, the bill falls short of that goal. Instead, it is a reflection of an undercut allocation.

Throughout America, we are seeing outdated infrastructure continue to impact the safety of our transportation workers and communities. Americans also experience constant congestion on our roads, delays at our airports, and bottlenecks at train stations. 

But this bill cuts funding for the Department of Transportation by more than $7 billion, which means less workers improving our roads, bridges, and rail lines and longer delays.

The American Society of Civil Engineers grades America’s infrastructure overall as a C-, with 43 percent of our public roadways in poor or mediocre condition. And this is an improvement.

It took us more than 20 years just to get out of the D range. We cannot honestly believe that either grade is satisfactory when it comes to safety. In fact, in order to bring our transportation into a state of good repair, it is estimated that we need to invest $2.59 trillion over 10 years.

Unfortunately, this bill would cut Amtrak’s budget by 64 percent, stalling or suspending service from Florida to New York, Texas to California, and in my own district – from Chicago, to Arkansas, Montana, and all the way to the Pacific Northwest.

Rail grant programs specifically created to improve safety on our railroads are also cut. At this time where derailments have happened in places like Ohio, Montana, Minnesota and in my own backyard – we simply cannot afford to cut the programs that improve our track safety by 50 percent.

The bill goes even further to leave transit agencies on a lifeline as they work to come up with creative solutions to pay their workers who manage the busses, trains, and streetcars that we see through our districts. We are talking tens of thousands of jobs of skilled labor at risk of furloughs across the country.

A cut of 82 percent to transit capital investment grants cripples the ability of working Americans, many of whom are essential workers, to ride on safe, reliable, and affordable transportation to get to their jobs.

While the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides for historic investments in transportation, it is not without limitation. The backlog of capital improvements for our airport runways and terminals, subways, and railways cannot be transformed with those resources alone.

The law was never intended to replace the necessary investments we provide through this bill. Instead, we will be asking governors and mayors to make impossible decisions on how to prioritize labor and local resources as state and local budgets are still recovering from the effects of COVID – against the laundry list of must-do projects that span transportation modes and increase safety.

Meanwhile, more than 580,000 people are experiencing homelessness and millions of families scrape to pay rent as incomes struggle to keep pace with rising housing costs.

But the allocation for this bill diminishes investments in the HOME program, which funds the construction of new affordable housing for renters and those seeking homeownership - cutting it by a billion dollars.

For my district, this would mean a cut of more than 66 percent to Chicago’s affordable housing resources.

The bill goes even further to pullback another half a billion dollars intended to make housing safer for low-income children and families. Mold, carbon monoxide, lead, and radon exposures should not go unchecked.

Illinois has one of the highest percentages of housing units with lead exposure risks, which can have lifelong developmental impacts to children if exposed. The cuts in this bill would be devastating for our young families dealing with lead exposure – with trickling effects on our local health care and education systems. 

We should be investing in programs that put people to work to build more affordable housing, repair and make more accessible aging housing, and creating healthy environments that help communities thrive.

Compounding these concerns are the several controversial policy riders that unnecessarily attack high speed rail, roll back transportation safety, and call into question civil rights protections for most Americans.

Simply put, this bill does not represent what our constituents have called on us to do, which is to maintain and upgrade our nation’s transportation and housing infrastructure and protect jobs.

The fundamental flaw: an allocation that does not reflect the true needs of America. 

As such, Mr. Chairman, I respectively cannot support this bill. Thank you.

118th Congress