Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee. As a new member of the Senate, am pleased to join my colleagues here today for this important hearing. I want to welcome Mr. Cuomo. I appreciate the chance I had to visit with you last week and discuss your vision for the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs for the next four years.
We face many challenges as we head into the 21st Century. believe none of the problems are too difficult to solve when people work together. The federal debt looms large. The debt burden places extreme pressure on Congress to set priorities for program funding. It impacts the delivery of every federal program and initiative, including housing and community development programs. Federal spending is out of control. We know it is easier tosay "yes" to program spending than "no." I firmly believe we need the discipline of the Balanced Budget Amendment to achieve our goals. We are spending our children's and grandchildren's future under the guise that we are serving the needs of our nation today. We have a duty to our communities, our families and our children to live within our means.
Mr. Cuomo's experience with the homeless in this country will come in handy in his governance of HUD. His tenure will straddle the achievement of welfare reform and additional challenges due to further cuts in public housing funds. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development will have an enormous responsibility. This appointment comes at a time when there are growing pressures on public housing programs as we move forward with welfare reform measures.
During the last four years, Mr. Cuomo presided over the tripling of homeless program funding. He also began the "continuum of care" initiative, a scheme that offers continual federal assistance to individuals once they have signed up. While we need compassion and care, the government should not be in the business of permanently subsidizing families in low- income housing projects. I would like to see definitive, measurable goals set for participant graduation from federal housing assistance programs and other government programs. We need to concentrate on programs that create communities with more opportunities to excel, instead of programs that create opportunities for greater government dependence.
In my judgement, necessary housing reforms will only come when Congress undertakes a serious program to balance the entire federal budget. A balanced budget will pay dividends in the form of lower interest costs. This translates to increased opportunities for all Americans to own their own homes
As mayor of Gillette, Wyoming, I found people became more a part of the community as they achieved home-ownership and that people take pride in projects in which they are personally involved. Under direction from the city, they built seven city parks with volunteer funds and work. These parks have never had a problem with vandalism. The people of the community took care of the parks because they put their own time, money, and effort into building them. This approach works and creates independence from the government. Personal investment and pride should be a part of the public housing programs, too. I look forward to working with the Members of the Banking Committee and Mr. Cuomo on easing the transition for many Americans from the welfare rolls to working- class citizens. Adequate and affordable housing must be a part of that transition. I look forward to discussing several issues, from housing vouchers to the potential for the further downsizing for the Department. Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the remainder of my time.
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