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Secretary Andrew Cuomo's Remarks
Press Conference on HUD Budget Cuts

Thursday, August 26, 1999

Thank you very much, good morning. First, let me welcome all of you here to HUD. Let me thank Susan Wachter for a really excellent report, the Losing Ground report we're issuing today, which takes all these big Washington numbers and all the talk about tax cuts and actually brings it home. It says what we'll need in each community across the United States. I think it's a very provocative piece of work and I want to thank her for it.

Martin Luther King III, this is the Department that enforces the Fair Housing Act, along with its other responsibilities. As you know, the Fair Housing Act is a tribute to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. And this Department also is at the forefront of the social justice issues and the economic justice issues which Martin King, III and the SCLC have dedicated themselves to. So it's a pleasure to be with you today.

Mayor Lee Clancy, on behalf of the United States Conference of Mayors, and Mr. Vernon Gray on behalf of NACo, the National Association of Counties. When you put them together you're talking about every city, every county government across the United States, big and small, urban and suburban and rural, Democratic and Republican. We're not talking about an isolated segment of the population. We're talking about the entire United States. It's a pleasure to have both of you with us today. And Cushing Dolbeare is a legend because she is the nation's most authoritative voice on housing, period.

You heard many of the numbers. Let me give you a quick context, if I can, for the budget discussion. I think it's been alluded to, and Martin Luther King III put his finger on it. This nation is doing extraordinarily well, there is no doubt about it. The President's leadership has brought this economy to great new heights. The American people should be proud of the economy that we're laboring under, because they produced it.

That is not to say that everyone everywhere is sharing in this American success. It's not to say that we don't still have work to do. That's why these cuts are even more onerous. It's not that everything was perfection out there. We've been making great progress, but we still have more to do.

Each one of the people who you have heard from today has pointed to that area. Martin works on economic justice issues and social justice issues. Today one out of five children are born into poverty. We have more to do. Yes, we've made progress, but you also have a great schism in the numbers within that progress. Between whites and minorities the so-called opportunity gap is alive and well in America.

Mayor Clancy speaks about cities. Our cities have done much better. But cities also have a long way to go. Twenty percent of our nation's cities are smaller than they were. Thirty-three percent have problems with concentrated poverty. And twenty percent are fighting very high unemployment. So we have work to do with our cities.

And Mr. Gray will tell you that the counties, many of the counties in the nation, are now getting old. And as the counties get older they're starting to have the problems that our cities had, which is basically a function of aging. Aging infrastructure, older schools, more crime problems, et cetera.

So, much done -- but much more still to do. Cushing Dolbeare's point about the need for affordable housing in this nation. The strong economy has actually increased the need for affordable housing. "Worst case" housing needs are at an all-time high. The number of American families who need affordable housing is at an all-time high today. 5.3 million American families need affordable housing.

Why? Because the strong economy actually drives up rents and those people who are at the bottom of the income spectrum or on fixed incomes can't afford the rents.

So, much progress but much more to do. This tax cut in that light is even more irresponsible and more repugnant. The President's plan, in my opinion, is moderate, it is intelligent and it's responsible. It secures the economic progress we've made and invests for tomorrow.

The Congressional plan on the other hand would jeopardize the economic progress we've made and savage the Government programs we need. To finance their tax cuts you would have to cut the central government functions, the domestic programs, as much as 50 percent over the next 10 years. Fifty percent.

What does that mean here at HUD? You heard the numbers: 156,000 fewer families housed, 97,000 fewer jobs, 16,000 homeless people, people with AIDS who wouldn't get services. We would have less affordable housing, less homeownership for working families, fewer jobs for low- and moderate-income Americans, less community development, which means less job training, less child care, less help for our senior citizens. We would clean up fewer environmentally-tainted sites. We would have fewer efforts to fight drugs. We would reduce our efforts to get the mentally ill off the streets. We would have to reduce our efforts to fight racial discrimination in this country. We would have to reduce our efforts to fight lead poisoning in children.

Why? Why would we do any of these things when we're making such progress? Why would we stop now? To me the cruelest irony is that the $800 billion in tax cuts goes to help the richest Americans. Twenty-five percent of the tax cut goes to the top one percent, and we would be cutting the aid to the poorest Americans to finance it. We would have to cut the homeless programs here at HUD, cut the programs that house people with AIDS to finance the tax cut to the richest Americans.

The HUD budget tells the story clearly, because it brings it home to every community across the nation. The President says continue the progress. The President's budget would increase the HUD funding $2 billion across the board. The Congressional budget would cut that funding 1.6 billion across the board.

The President said today - and I quote -- "We have worked very hard and made great strides to reverse decades of decline in our cities and create new jobs, but the job is not done. Our nation needs the budget I proposed for HUD so we can move forward to help even more families."

The last point is this. Any business executive will tell you the time to grow the company, the time to turn liabilities into assets is when the company is generating dividends. That's what this nation is doing today. We are generating dividends. Now we should be investing to turn those liabilities into assets.

The old saying is that the time to fix the hole in the roof is when the sun is shining. Well, it's high noon on the economic clock. Secure the economic progress, take care of Social Security, take care of Medicare, pay down the debt, keep the economy strong because the economy is the engine that is working on so many fronts. And then invest in a better tomorrow, that's what today is all about.

Since the House passed its budget, 58,000 children have been born into poverty -- 58,327 children born into poverty just since the House passed its budget. This budget will be paid for by those children. Make no mistake, they are going to pay the cost of this tax cut. It's their futures that are going to be sacrificed and we have no right to do that. Their futures are too bright, their futures are too important. We can't let it happen.

Thank you very much for being with us today. I'm going to ask Martin Luther King III to join me as we change the number of how many children have been born into poverty to reflect today, the number at the end of today and then I'll ask the other guests to join me and take questions.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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