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Congressman Albio Sires

Representing the 8th District of New Jersey

Washington Review, April 25, 2019

Apr 25, 2019
Washington Review

Each year, the creation our federal government’s annual budget is a collaboration between the Executive Branch and Congress to set the course for our nation’s priorities. Initiating the process for fiscal year (FY) 2020, President Trump released his budget request on March 11, 2019 to Congress, reflecting a compilation of his administration’s experience running our federal agencies and including their priorities for the upcoming year.

The President’s budget request was plainly unacceptable, and I was outraged at many of the proposals. Included in the plan was the slashing of Medicare and Medicaid, the elimination of entire infrastructure investment programs, and deep cuts to education and public housing. After issuing a massive tax cut to wealthy corporations last year, an attack on safeguards for the most vulnerable Americans cannot go unchallenged.

As a new member on the House Committee on the Budget, it was my duty to respond and conduct oversight of the President’s request with my colleagues. I have already directly questioned officials from the Administration during our committee hearings and will continue to hold public officials accountable for the values they communicate in their proposals.

As stated in the Constitution, the House of Representatives alone holds the power of the purse and carries out the critical next step in the budget process. The House Committee on Appropriations will assemble twelve bills – divided by relevant federal agencies – comprising the entire national budget. This legislative package, unlike the President’s plan, will be the only official proposal that receives a vote on the House Floor.

This past month, as the Committee began to create this appropriations package, Members of the House of Representatives were able to issue specific budget requests to be included in the final legislation. By sending letters to the Committee and supporting letters sent by other Members, I was able to be a voice for our community in the creation of our federal government’s budget. I wanted to share with you some of the requests I submitted and advocated to the Committee to include in the final bill.

Community Development

The President’s budget proposal stripped all funding the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME). As a former mayor, I know firsthand the power these funds have to transform our neighborhoods and ease the burden of major improvement projects for municipalities. I joined Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) to submit a request to the Committee that CDBG is provided at least $3.8 billion in funding for FY2020. Additionally, I joined Rep. Marcia Fudge’s request to fund HOME, one of the largest federal forces to address affordable housing, at $1.5 billion for the upcoming year.

I also joined requests for the supplemental programs that are often life-saving for Americans experiencing financial hardship. I joined Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) in requesting robust funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) as well as joined Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) in requesting $4.77 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Head Start is our nation’s strongest commitment to ending early education inequality. I supported Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA)’s request to the Committee for $11 billion in Head Start funding for FY2020 to give every American child the chance for success.

Infrastructure

Better Utilizing Investments for Leverage Development (BUILD) grants are essential federal funds for infrastructure projects which has slowly been disappearing over the last years. As our nation faces a crisis with crumbling infrastructure, I requested that the Committee provide $1.5 billion in funding for BUILD grants, ensure project awards are equally distributed between rural and urban communities, and that investment is tagged to finance public transportation projects. Importantly, BUILD grants are one of the major financing tools for the Gateway Project that is so vital to our community. As a major transportation hub in the region, our local economy desperately needs a vigorous investment in infrastructure.

Additionally, I requested that the Committee fund the Interstate Bus Security Grant Program (IBSGP) at $7 million in FY2020. Installing the latest technology, training drivers for emergencies, building more secure bus facilities, this funding is critical to improving the lives of daily commuters. Our loved ones should not have to risk their lives to reach their place of employment.

Health Care

Community Health Centers (CHC) are fundamental to the livelihoods of countless members of our community. As health care costs continue to increase, access to quality, affordable services is more important than ever. I joined Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO) in asking the Committee to fund CHCs at $5.6 billion in the upcoming year.

It is imperative our nation continues to advance our ability to combat diseases and develop successful treatment of illness. That is why I supported Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) in an effort to request $41.6 billion in funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I also supported Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) in advocating for $2.65 billion in Alzheimer’s research to be conducted at NIH, as well as Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) efforts to secure $50 million in Autism research funding also to be conducted at NIH and other federal agencies. 

Environment and Animal Rights

Without action, dire consequences await for our planet as we experience the increasing effects of climate change. I led a letter to the Committee asking for $50 million for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Clean Cities coalition program, which leverages federal assistance into financing greenhouse gas emission reduction projects, the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles, and ventures to improve the quality of our communities’ environment.

Additionally, I supported Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-VA) efforts to request $57 million for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, which provides grants to states and localities for the fight to protect endangered species.

Thank you for reading the Washington Review. Again, hearing from my constituents enables me to be a better representative of the 8th District. For regular updates, you may stay in touch by leaving comments on my FacebookTwitter, and website.