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July 15, 1997
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's
views on H.R. 2158, the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development,
and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 1998, as reported by the
House Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's
views would be appreciated.
The Committee has developed a bill that provides requested funding for many of the Administration's priorities. We appreciate the Committee's efforts to fully fund the requests for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. As discussed below, the Administration will seek restoration of certain of the Committee's reductions to the President's request. We recognize that it will not be possible in all cases to attain the Administration's full request and will work with the House toward achieving acceptable funding levels. The Administration is committed to working with the House to identify reductions in the bill in order to find offsets for the restoration of funds that the Administration seeks. We urge the House to reduce funding for lower priority programs, or for programs that would be adequately funded at the requested level, and to redirect funding to programs of higher priority.
Corporation for National and Community Service
The Administration understands that an amendment may be offered to terminate the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Administration would oppose any amendment to terminate the Corporation as well as any amendment that would eliminate the Corporation's AmeriCorps grant program. Were either of these actions to be incorporated into the final bill presented to the President, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.
The Administration is deeply concerned about the $146.5 million, or 27 percent, reduction to the President's request for the Corporation for National and Community Service, one of the Administration's highest priorities. The bill does not include the requested increase for the President's America Reads Challenge, the national literacy campaign to ensure that every child can read well and independently by the third grade. The Bipartisan Budget Agreement specifically calls for funding a literacy program, "with the goals and the concepts of the President's America Reads program." Without the requested funding, the Corporation would not be able to finance 11,000 AmeriCorps tutor coordinators to help recruit, organize and manage the America Reads army of a million volunteers to tutor over three million children. The Administration strongly urges the House to fully fund the Corporation at the requested level of $549 million.
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund
The Administration commends the Committee for funding the CDFI Fund at $125 million, which is consistent with the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. The CDFI Fund has a demonstrated record of success. In the first round of the CDFI Program, the Fund awarded $37.2 million in loans, equity investments, grants and technical assistance to 31 CDFIs serving 46 states and the District of Columbia. These investments have already leveraged more than $50 million in non-Federal matches and, over the long term, are estimated to leverage 10 to 20 times the amount awarded. Furthermore, under the Bank Enterprise Award Program, the CDFI Fund awarded $13.1 million to 38 banks and thrifts. These awards have encouraged $126 million in support for CDFIs and direct lending and financial services in distressed neighborhoods. We strongly oppose an amendment that we understand may be offered to reduce the CDFI funding to $50 million. This amendment would be contrary to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement.
Environmental Protection Agency
The Administration appreciates the Committee's continued efforts to keep the bill free from contentious legislative riders. However, the Administration believes that the Committee's overall $413 million, or 5.4 percent, reduction to the President's request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would significantly limit key activities and dangerously impair the agency's ability to protect the environment adequately.
In particular, the Administration strongly objects to the Committee's $593 million, or 28 percent, reduction to the President's request for Superfund. It is especially troubling that the Committee has failed to fund this program at the level anticipated in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. These funds are urgently needed to eliminate the backlog of Superfund cleanups and improve the quality of life for more than 27 million Americans, including over four million children, who live within four miles of a Superfund site. The Administration appreciates the Committee's decision to fund the President's increase for Brownfields, but objects to the bill language that would prevent EPA from using these funds for cleanups. Not only has the use of Superfund resources for the cleanup of Brownfields properties been determined to be a legitimate use of the trust fund, but the revolving loan funds are a critical resource to the cities involved. Congress should fully fund the President's request for Superfund, as indicated in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement.
The Committee bill would provide a level of funding roughly equal to the President's request for EPA's operating program. However, the Administration is concerned that the House would reduce funding for key Administration priorities while funding numerous unrequested and unauthorized projects. In particular, the Administration is strongly opposed to the 40 percent reduction to the President's requests for the Climate Change Action Plan. These voluntary programs represent the most cost-effective method of achieving reductions in greenhouse gases that are needed to fulfill U.S. treaty commitments. The Administration also urges the House to restore funding for the President's Kalamazoo Right to Know initiative, which will make more environmental data available to the public in 75 major cities; the Montreal Protocol program, which works to prevent depletion of the ozone layer; and for the innovative GLOBE program.
In addition, the Administration urges the House to restore the $77 million reduction to the President's request of $100 million for Boston Harbor to help improve water quality and reduce the number of beach closings. This funding would continue to fulfill a bipartisan Federal commitment to Boston Harbor because of its special needs and high user charges.
Finally, the Administration objects to the Committee's $11.2 million reduction to the President's request for the Leaking Underground Storage Tanks Trust Fund. This reduction would have a direct impact on the ability of the States to oversee the initiation and completion of cleanups at backlogged sites and to ensure that sufficient progress is made on the new releases that are expected to be discovered.
Council on Environmental Quality
The Administration urges the House to restore the reduction from the request for the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The Committee's reduction would severely affect CEQ's ability to perform its statutory obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and, consequently, would cripple its ongoing effort to reinvent NEPA, a project designed to improve decision-making and raise efficiency in the performance of NEPA reviews. The results of the NEPA reinvention will reduce costs, time delays, and paperwork to the benefit of the general public.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
The Administration notes that the overall level of funding provided by the Committee for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is generally consistent with the Administration's request. However, the Committee has failed to fund a number of Presidential initiatives, including Brownfields Redevelopment, Empowerment Zones, Homeownership Zones, Bridges to Work, and housing certificates to help families make the transition from welfare to work. We urge the House to restore funding for these priority programs.
The Administration seeks restoration of $283 million in the Housing Certificate Fund for incremental housing assistance to aid additional low-income families. These funds would be allocated to collaboratives consisting of State welfare agencies and housing authorities. The Administration also objects to the Committee's inclusion of a three-month delay in issuing housing vouchers, which would reduce the number of families currently assisted. These reductions are particularly troubling because the number of low-income families with severe needs for housing has recently increased. The Administration suggests restoring funds for these priorities by eliminating some of the unrequested funds for several HUD programs.
Department of Veterans Affairs
The Administration appreciates the overall level of funding provided by the Appropriations Committee for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and is pleased that the Administration's user fee proposal has been included in the bill. However, the Administration is strongly opposed to report language intending to direct the VA to shift funds among its twenty-two health care networks after those funds had been allocated based upon the relative needs in each. The VA took these actions to address funding inequities in compliance with Public Law 104-204. The report language would direct the VA to undo these efforts and, as a result, five networks would receive more funding than is justified, while seventeen networks would continue to be under-funded. The Administration recommends that Congress eliminate this language and confirm that the VA can and should implement its new allocation system without delay to fulfill the congressional mandate set forth in Public Law 104-204. The Administration also requests that the House include proposed appropriations language to allow funds from the Construction, Minor Projects account to be used for capital contribution payments for the enhanced-use lease program.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
We support the $150 million in transfer authority provided by the Committee for the International Space Station. The Administration will oversee the implementation of this transfer authority to ensure that it will not have adverse effects on other priority NASA programs. The Administration supports funding for Russian Program Assurance, which can be accommodated within the President's requested level for NASA.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to support pre-disaster mitigation efforts. However, the Administration objects to the $60 million in unrequested funds provided by the Committee to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for planning and construction costs of a full-scale windstorm simulation center in conjunction with the Partnership for Natural Hazard Reduction. The project has not undergone scientific peer review and is incompatible with the long-established mission and capabilities of the Department of Energy's Idaho facilities in the area of nuclear energy research. These funds should be redirected to programs of higher priority. Further, the Administration believes it would be inappropriate for the Federal Government to assume responsibility for all of the costs associated with this partnership. Finally, the incremental approach to funding this activity is also objectionable.
Office of Consumer Affairs
The Administration opposes the Committee's proposed termination of the Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA). This agency represents consumer needs and viewpoints across the Federal Government by coordinating Federal consumer policy and providing information to consumers through a help-line and educational materials. The Administration requests that the House restore funding for OCA and, as requested in the FY 1998 Budget, restore OCA's authority to accept and expend donated funds.