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NACo Community and Economic Development Steering Committee Report - 2013 Legislative Conference


Posted Date: 
March 29, 2013
Contact: 
Joe Briggs, Cascade County Commissioner

This was my first meeting on the Community and Economic Development Steering Committee and to be frank, I felt like I was running to catch a fast moving train once the resolutions were brought forward.  I had obtained a complete set of the resolutions in advance of the meeting and was prepared to engage in a discussion of them, but none occurred.  It was clear that the vetting had already occurred at the subcommittee level and the rest of the committee was not in a mood to rehash prior discussions.  The Chairman skillfully moved the resolutions at a speed that would make any conductor proud and the package was approved with no discussion in very short order.

This is not intended as a criticism, it was simply a result of my being appointed to the committee halfway through the NACo year and not having been involved earlier in the resolution process.

The Resolutions that were approved by the committee are listed below.

I should probably note that we were at this conference when sequestration triggered and yet most of the resolutions passed by the committee charged with development of Economic Development polices for NACO called for INCREASES in federal spending.  None of them dealt with the issues of capital formation, business regulation, energy policy, tax policy, foreign trade or how the private sector could be incentivized to create jobs. The only resolution that dealt with empowering the private sector to create jobs is the one calling for support of the JOLT act.

Hopefully, I am wrong, but from my one experience with this committee it is difficult to avoid concluding that the members believe that economic opportunity and prosperity is created only within the beltway and Uncle Sugar is the creator of all wealth.  To be sure some of the issues addressed in these resolutions are very important especially in the urban areas of the nation, but they are only supporting elements.  The real engine of economic and community development is the creation of jobs and wealth by the private sector.

Ok, I have taken a deep breath, stepped off of my soap box and calmed myself.  Now to the resolutions:

  1. Support for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program

    NACo urges Congress to fund the CDBG program at $3 .3 billion. (The President’s budget calls for funding of $2.94 billion)

  1. Support for FY 2013 and FY 2014 appropriations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

    NACo urges Congress to support the following levels of funding for core HUD in the final FY 2013 and FY 2014 appropriations bills: no less than $3.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) formula funding; no less than $1.6 billion in formula funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME); $1.9 billion for Homeless Housing Assistance grants, including an amount to fully fund expiring supportive housing and Shelter Plus Care rent subsidy contracts; full funding for existing Section 8 project-based and tenant-based contracts; and $275 million in Section 108 Loan Guarantee authority. This would restore funding for CDBG and HOME to their FY 2011 levels.

  1. Resolution Urging Congress to Protect the Tax-Exemption for Single-Family and Multifamily Housing Bonds and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

    NACo urges Congress to protect the tax-exemption for municipal bonds, including those that help finance single-family and multifamily housing, and to maintain the authority to allocate LIHTCs.

  1. Support for Reauthorization and Appropriations for the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration.

    NACo urges Congress to support reauthorization and appropriations for the Department of Commerce’s EDA to keep communities strong and economically viable at a time when our nation needs it the most.

  1. Resolution to Support Enactment of the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act

    Support introduction and enactment of the JOLT Act, federal legislation to boost international travel to the United States, generating significant new revenues and supporting new American jobs.

All five of these resolutions were subsequently approved by the NACo board on March 4, 2013.

The committee also received a series of updates regarding the impacts on various Federal programs that sequestration was expected to have.  The first update was from Jonathon Harwitz of the US Housing and Urban Development Agency ere he serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for Budget and Policy.  According to Mr. Harwitz, details were still unclear as to the specific impacts on programs but since 85% of HUDs budget was dedicated to low income housing support it was unlikely that the Housing voucher program would not see significant cuts.  He talked briefly about HUDs efforts to reduce Veteran and chronic homelessness and cited statistics that progress has been made in these areas over the last 3 years. He expressed concern that these results could be maintained in the face of the budget cuts.  Lastly he indicated that his department was looking at ways to allow greater flexibility at the local level while still providing a measurable return on investment.

Kate Ostrander the Legislative director for the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition was the next speaker to address the committee.  She focused her remarks on how NACo members could be more successful during visits with their members of congress.  She stressed the importance of the personal relationships not only with the members but with their staff as well.  Make sure to maintain close contact with the local congressional staff and keep them updated on what you are doing locally so that they in turn can pass the information on to the member.  Lastly, she warned that although there did not seem to be a sense of urgency yet regarding sequestration, that some small things had occurred such as reducing the number of security entrances into the congressional buildings so we should expect a line. 

John Murphy, the NACCED Executive Director provided a short history of current budgeting impasse and the actions over the last three years that have brought us to this point.  He mentioned the Senate’s failure to take action on the budgets created in the House for the last three years, the inability of the “Super committee” to reach agreement and use of continuing resolutions.  Overall, sequestration will require about 8% in cuts including those which have already been triggered.  He indicated that the next fiscal crisis date facing the nation was March 27, 2013 when the FY 13 continuing resolution expires.

 As I sit writing this report on the 29th of March, I note that the sun is still shining and the Earth still rotates on its axis so I guess the new continuing resolution passed late last week has once again saved us from rack and ruin.

Joe Briggs | (406) 454-6810 | jbriggs@cascadecountymt.gov