Category: Congress

What the ‘cromnibus’ would mean for federal community development programs

fed-budget

On Tuesday, the House released its plan to fund the federal government for the next fiscal year. The bill is part omnibus, part continuing resolution—hence the nickname “cromnibus”—and sets discretionary federal spending at close to $1.01 trillion for the rest of fiscal year 2015. The House is expected to take up passage of the bill by tomorrow and the Senate is expected to follow soon after, in hopes of avoiding a potential federal shutdown when the current funding bill expires this week.

The good news is that nearly all federal community development programs would be funded as part of this bill. The bad news is that the majority of those programs would face cuts of some kind.

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Senate, House tangle over highway funding cliff

In the past week, with just days left before the Highway Trust Fund runs dry, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed short-term measures that would keep the fund solvent through the end of this year.

While both plans are essentially short-term patches for a long-term problem—meeting America’s growing infrastructure needs with funding from a gas tax that hasn’t risen since 1993—the Senate version, passed Tuesday, is a big step in the right direction.

Gone are the pension-smoothing and accounting gimmicks, included in the House’s earlier version of the bill, that Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) called “generational theft.” Furthermore, rather than delay the Trust Fund’s insolvency to May of 2015, the new proposal only runs through the end of this year, forcing Congress to confront a long-term solution sooner.

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Congress moves toward short-term transportation fix

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Chairman Wyden helped two committees arrive at a short-term fix.

This week, the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees moved toward passing a short-term fix for the transportation funding crisis, with each committee passing a complementary bill designed to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through at least early 2015. If passed into law, the bills would transfer $10.8 billion dollars to the trust fund, keeping federal transportation operations in the black for another few months.

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Congress takes a stand for neighborhoods with transit

Have you ever caught a bus right outside your office? Taken the subway to a ball game? Or ridden the light rail to go to the grocery store?

If you have, you know how convenient and inviting transit-oriented development can be.

This strategy—of building neighborhoods with homes, shops and offices near public transportation—can create significant economic development, generate new tax revenue for towns and cities, and lower housing and transportation costs for families. But these projects come with complex infrastructure challenges, and as a result need more than just bank support.

A new bill introduced today in Congress would help make transit-oriented development projects more financially feasible.

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What the GROW AMERICA Act would mean for smart growth and community development

Yesterday the Obama Administration sent Congress its proposal for a four-year federal transportation bill—the GROW AMERICA Act. The current bill, MAP-21, is set to expire at the end of September, and the new bill has implications for highway and rail construction as well as economic development programs like TIGER grants. How would these proposals impact community development and smart growth?

The good news
The bill includes several promising policies for smart growth advocates.

First and foremost, it would require cities and states to consider all modes of travel when designing federally funded roads, provisions very similar to those proposed in the Safe Streets Act. This strategy gets the most out of federally funded projects, makes sure a given project best meets a community’s needs, and supports neighborhoods with a wide range of transportation choices—all things that Smart Growth America supports.

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BUILD Act moves through committee

This morning, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted unanimously to pass the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2013. The bill will go next to the full Senate for a vote.

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Smart Growth America congratulates Senator Carper on his appointment as chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has announced the appointment of Senator Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), as chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee. Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America, issued this statement in response:

“We are pleased to hear of Senator Carper’s appointment as chairman of a key subcommittee helping to write the next version of our nation’s transportation law. Senator Carper brings a pragmatic approach that is coupled with a bold vision for a 21st century transportation system that will benefit communities across the country. Smart Growth America and our alliance of local elected officials, real estate developers and coalition of non-profits look forward to working with him on the upcoming transportation reauthorization, and helping him push for a bill that will allow our communities to make the investments that will improve the nation’s economic competitiveness.”


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Representative Camp releases his proposal for tax reform. What does it mean for smart growth?

Yesterday Representative Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced his proposal for comprehensive tax reform—and it has big implications for real estate and smart growth.

Each year Americans take billions of dollars worth of income tax deductions related to real estate. Things like the mortgage interest deduction and property tax deduction can represent big savings for a household—so big that they can influence taxpayers’ decisions about the type of home they buy. Even more credits are available to real estate developers, who can get tax breaks to help pay for things like redevelopment or the construction of low-income housing.

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