Visclosky Fights For Infrastructure Investment
July 30, 2013 — This week as the House considered the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill, Congressman Pete Visclosky took to the House floor to stand up for essential investments in America’s future. Here is the full text of his remarks, courtesy of Congressman Visclosky’s office:
“Mr. Chairman, I, first of all, want to thank the chairman of the subcommittee, the ranking member, and all of the members of the subcommittee for their very good work. Given the allocation they have, they have done their very best.
“I would follow up on a number of remarks by my colleagues, including the chairman, and that is we need a deal. And my plea to the membership is we cannot continue to go on like this.
“This process no longer is on time. Our year starts October 1. In 2007, we finished in February. In 2008, we finished in December. In 2009, we finished in March. In 2010, we finished in December. In fiscal year 2011, we finished in April. In 2012, we finished in December. This year, we finished on March 26.
“Since 2007, we should have enacted 84 individual appropriation bills. We have enacted nine individually–about 10 percent of our work. Unfortunately, the body has made the work of this subcommittee, the full committee, and the other 11 subcommittees very difficult.
“For fiscal year 2013, our committee was given a target in the summer of 2011, under the Budget Control Act. The target was changed under a resolution passed by the House for the budget in the spring of 2012. The target was changed again on January 1, 2013. Subsequently, we have sequestration. My plea to the general membership is, please, just give this exceptional committee one target and let us do our work.
“I also am fearful because we are operating most agencies, including the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under a continuing resolution that, for the vast majority of my colleagues, makes no difference. You wouldn’t run your house or your business exactly the way you did last year.
“We made these agencies wait 7 months to tell them they can keep doing the same thing for another 5 months, and on October 1 of this year we’re going to do it again.
“Some people say we’re spending too much money. I agree, which is why I have actually brought a chart to the floor. We balanced a budget under President Nixon in 1969 for 1 year. We balanced a budget for 4 years under President Clinton. During those years, Federal spending was about 18.9 percent of GDP. For fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013, it was about 22.7. The response of this body is: we will do the Budget Control Act, and we will have mindless sequestration and treat all discretionary accounts the same.
“Some people say we don’t have enough revenue. They’re absolutely right. When President Nixon and President Clinton balanced a budget for those 5 years, revenue was 20.1 percent of GDP. Today, it is 16.2.
“We had a bill passed on January 1 that effectively now has limited us as far as any future revenue. I would point out 204 Members of this body voted for that bill in a bipartisan fashion, and 219 Members of this body today, in a bipartisan fashion, voted for the Budget Control Act, even though most of them complain about sequestration.
“Today, we have the allocations this great subcommittee is faced with, and we are pounding our discretionary accounts. The fact is, in 1963 over 67 percent of what we spent as a national government was an investment in the future, in our children’s future. In fiscal year 2012, that was down to 26 percent.
“For those who want to continue this madness of going after discretionary spending, and particularly domestic discretionary spending–Department of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development–I would point out that year, if we had eliminated the Government of the United States, eliminated the Congress and the Presidency and every agency except the Department of Defense and the entitlement programs, and did nothing on taxes, our deficit last year was $472 billion. It is estimated this year, if we got rid of the Department of Transportation–which I think some people are trying to do with this allocation–if we got rid of HUD, if we got rid of the government, except for defense, except for entitlements, and did nothing on taxes, this year’s deficit would be $153 billion.
“The American Society of Civil Engineers this year gave our country–the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth–a D-plus for our infrastructure. I have a bridge that was blown up in my district next to ArcelorMittal and BP. That’s not helping create jobs.
“They claim we are about $1.6 trillion short between now and 2020 investing in infrastructure. That’s what this bill is about, investing in the future.
“We do need a deal; and the chairman mentioned it, the ranking member mentioned it. We do have to talk about entitlements for the sake of our children. What about our children when Social Security is insolvent in 2033? What about our children when Medicare is insolvent in 2024? We need to address those issues; and we need to address the issue of revenue to make sure we have enough to invest in those highways, in those classrooms, in those research institutes so that we can have a full and vibrant economy going forward.
“For those who want to balance the budget and are about this madness of sequestration and crushing domestic discretionary spending, hurting defense discretionary spending, I would also point out that the Congressional Budget Office indicated in October of 2011 that for fiscal year 2012, one-third of the deficit would have gone away if we simply were at full employment.
“So it is time to talk to each other. It is time to put everything on the table. It is time to invest in this country. And I would hope we do that sooner rather than later.
“I appreciate very much the gentleman yielding me time.”