I want to welcome everyone to the Housing and Transportation Subcommittee. Today we will review HUD's program, budget, and management priorities for FY 2002.
I want to particularly welcome Secretary Martinez. Mr. Secretary, this is your first appearance before the Committee since your confirmation hearing three months ago. I trust that by now you have had time to digest the tremendous challenges of your job.
I want to commend you on the thoughtful tone that you have set in your first months in office. The response from my constituents has been very positive.
I also want to welcome our second panel of witnesses. Following the Secretary we will hear from: Ms. Susan Gaffney, HUD Inspector General; Mr. Stan Czwerwinski, Director of Housing and Community Development at GAO; Ms. Renee Glover, Executive Director of the Atlanta Housing Authority; and Ms. Barbara Sard of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
I have an opening statement, then I will ask other Senators if they have statements, and we will hear from the Secretary.
There has been a good deal of debate over HUD's budget proposal and whether it constitutes an increase or decrease.
However, this debate seems to me to miss the point. The central question should be: What are the objectives of HUD, and are adequate resources provided to achieve the desired results.
Last year, I made a point to emphasize the Government Performance and Results Act - or the Results Act.
Government agencies should be judged by results, not by the size of their budgets or the number of new programs !
The success of HUD will be determined by how many people it helps to achieve self-sufficiency, not by how much money it spends.
It is the responsibility of the Congress to hold federal agencies accountable for specific results, and to budget according to the success or failure in achieving those results.
For the last several years, HUD's budget has been increased significantly. And what is most striking to me is the amount of unobligated money in the HUD pipeline which has already been appropriated by the Congress.
At the end of last fiscal year, there was at least $12 billion of unobligated and unspent HUD money.
Congress can argue about whether this year's budget request is a billion dollar increase, or a billion dollar decrease. But the key question is how do we get HUD to efficiently and wisely spend the money that Congress has already approved ? That question should be answered before we put more spending increases in the budget.
As I review the budget request, I am impressed with the commitment to increase homeownership, particularly among minority families.
I am also impressed with the commitment to fully fund Section 8 contracts and vouchers, and to focus on ways to ensure that those vouchers can be fully utilized.
I am also supportive of the effort to return the CDBG program to a true block grant. Far too many of the dollars in this program have been siphoned-off by Congress for special projects before they ever get to the local communities.
I am pleased to see some consolidation in programs, and I hope that there will be more.
I am pleased to see the commitment to tax incentives, fair housing enforcement, and improvements in the homeless assistance programs.
Obviously, the housing authorities are understandably concerned with proposals that impact them. We have invited the Atlanta Housing Authority to present their views here today, and we will review their concerns and the concerns of others who oppose parts of the budget.
I look forward to working with you, Mr. Secretary, and with the members of this Committee as we work to hold HUD accountable for results to taxpayers and program beneficiaries.