Thank you Mr. Speaker for that kind introduction. It is truly an
honor to be here. Senate President Gnant, thank you also for inviting
your colleagues from the other chamber to be with us today. And
finally, thank you to my wonderful host, Governor Jane Hull for
having me in the state and also for her leadership on so many vital
issues both here in Arizona and nationally. Let me just say this
trip is quite special to me because of your state's rich Hispanic
heritage. The multicultural mosaic of Arizona's people mirrors the
natural beauty of the state and I'm so very pleased to be here.
When I spoke to President Bush yesterday - as we were flying back
aboard Air Force One from Florida - I told him I was coming to Arizona
today. He asked me to convey his best wishes and deep respect for
Before I begin my remarks, I must say that since no Florida teams
survived March Madness, for today I am an Arizona Wildcats fan.
But only for today�..
On a more serious note, I'm excited to be here today and have this
opportunity to talk to you about important issues in the housing
arena and where the President and I would like to take the country
over the next few years.
Specifically I would like to talk to you about my vision for HUD
and housing issues. In addition I will discuss growth management,
an issue that I know is very important to you and your constituents.
And finally I'd like to talk to you briefly about the President's
budget and where he intends to lead America.
As I have traveled the country, I have met with developers who
have worked closely with our department, families who benefit from
our programs and from government officials who administer our programs.
And while I have only been in office sixty days, there are several
recurring themes in the conversations I've had.
First and foremost HUD must get its own house in order. Candidly,
HUD is a department that has suffered from mismanagement, mission
creep, and unresponsiveness. Secretaries Kemp, Cisneros and Cuomo
have made significant strides toward strengthening management of
the department. But be assured, there is much work to be done and
I intend to dedicate my first year of service to righting the ship.
Our mission is people not programs. And people will best be served
by a well-run agency that knows its core mission and sticks to it.
Over the last several years, the programs at HUD have dramatically
increased from 50 to the current level of 352! We have experienced
massive mission creep. A case in point. Over the past 10 years,
HUD has expended 10 billion dollars on homeless programs. Yet in
the same 10 years, the rate of homelessness has remained constant
- despite the amazing prosperity our country has seen over the same
The reality is that homelessness is not necessarily about whether
people have a roof over their heads, but rather is often due to
problems like drug addiction, mental illness, alcohol abuse, or
other social ills.
HUD is simply not equipped to deal with the root problems of homelessness.
Therefore I intend to work closely with Secretary Thompson at the
Department of Health and Human Services to explore those areas where
HUD and HHS and other agencies duplicate programs but with no extra
There must be a more effective way to deliver services to those
who find themselves homeless due to no fault of their own. Our goal
should be to end chronic homelessness by getting people the help
Simply providing them duplicative services does nothing more than
add one layer of bureaucracy over another while doing very little
to solve their problem, to say nothing of wasting taxpayer dollars,
time, and energy that could better utilized to meet their true needs.
On a related but separate topic, I have heard from the business
community that doing business with HUD is not only slow and cumbersome
but costly. Specifically I've been told by developers that because
of the centralized nature of the management structure of HUD it
is virtually impossible to get decisions from local HUD offices
in a timely manner. And as we all know, time is money.
I intend to restore decision-making ability and streamline processes
to empower local HUD offices and my regional representatives across
the country. During a recent trip to Kansas City, I had a senior
level HUD employee tell me that when he first began his career with
HUD, he operated in much the same way as a branch manager of a bank.
He had real responsibility, made decisions, and reported back to
headquarters about those decisions. The centralization of HUD through
the years and the "Washington knows best" mentality has served to
paralyze our representatives across the country. That same representative
in Kansas City told me that instead of serving as a branch manager
with real authority, he has now been reduced to nothing more than
an ATM machine.
No successful business in America operates on that model. Let me
assure you that under my leadership local decision making will be
Next I would like to talk to you about what I believe is the core
mission of Housing and Urban Development. The great American Dream
is to own a home. President Bush and I are committed to making that
dream a reality for all Americans.
Clearly the news is good in non-minority households where home-ownership
rates are in excess of 70%. However, for African Americans and Hispanics,
home-ownership is just 46%.
This is not acceptable. We can do better, and we must do better.
To that end President Bush has proposed as part of his budget,
the "American Dream Down Payment Fund" which will assist 130,000
families clear the initial hurdle of pulling together a down-payment,
the most significant barrier to home-ownership.
Many politicians talk about making home-ownership a reality, but
make no mistake, President Bush is doing something about it.
On a related topic, many of you know that the first step to home-ownership
is participating in the rental market. With this in mind, I am pleased
to announce that President Bush has included in his budget a 25%
increase in FHA's loan limit for multi-family programs. Not since
1992 has there been an increase in loan limits. This is significant
because when combined with several other of President Bush's initiatives
as well as state and local programs, this will spur development
in affordable multi-family housing throughout America. We have heard
eight years of rhetoric with no results, but in 60 days President
Bush has proposed real solutions to jump start the rental housing
market across America.
President Bush has also proposed a "single family tax credit"
- an investor-based tax credit - that will provide strong encouragement
to developers and non-profit organizations to build new single-family
affordable houses or rehabilitate already existing ones - and increase
the availability of affordable housing.
It will help bridge the gap between development costs and market
prices and expand opportunities for low-income home-buyers. We estimate
that within 5 years, 100,000 homes will be built or rehabilitated
under this plan.
Next I want to talk to you about an issue that I know is important
to you and your constituents. As the former county executive of
Orange County, Florida, on a daily basis I dealt with the problem
of exploding growth. Arizona, like Florida, is blessed with a booming
economy, warm weather, and a few golf courses here and there.
That inviting combination has encouraged an explosion in growth
unparalleled in many areas of the country. As we all know, such
growth is both a blessing and a burden.
As the chief executive of Orange County, I was often faced with
tough decisions about how our community should grow. Before a roof-top
could be added, the laws of the state of Florida required that the
necessary infrastructure be in place; water, sewers, lighting, and
roads. You will note that school capacity was not a consideration.
The effect of such laws made sewers more important than schoolchildren.
That is not only wrong but it also created overcrowded classrooms,
overworked teachers, and under-served children.
I chose to take this problem head-on despite the fact that every
political guru, pundit, and even some of my friends in the press
told me we couldn't win that fight. Under the leadership of Governor
Jeb Bush, a group of representatives just like you joined together,
ignored the so-called experts, and took the first steps toward easing
the school overcrowding problem. And I am proud to say the Florida
legislature is expected to act on our recommendations. Let me assure
you, as the Secretary of HUD, I do not intend to become the "zoning
czar" of the United States. But I do intend to use the office the
President has entrusted to me to lead a national discussion on how
we grow and where we grow.
HUD was created in the Sixties to deal with hard-core urban problems.
I believe that our mission must include solutions for suburban America
as well as urban America. . . .
Now let me take a minute to talk about where President Bush wants
to lead America. Specifically I'd like to talk to you about his
budget, his priorities, and tax relief for all Americans.
Earlier I spoke about my priorities in making the American Dream
accessible to every American and I believe that access begins with
putting more money into the pockets of Americans. Americans want
tax relief. Americans need tax relief and the citizens of Arizona
deserve tax relief!! The President's tax plan would mean $1,896
dollars for the average family of four living in Arizona - a 52.5%
Tax relief will benefit cities like Phoenix by allowing working
families to keep more of their money to meet their priorities -
whether it is saving for a child's college tuition or helping with
a down-payment on a new home. It's real money for real life.
It's their money, not the government's money, and they deserve
The President's budget is a compassionate budget. It is a responsible
budget. His approach keeps spending in line with inflation while
meeting the nation's most important priorities.
As the President has said, there is no greater priority than education.
Our children are our greatest investment. They are our legacy. Education
is the first step out of poverty and into a world of opportunity.
That is why President Bush has made his greatest investment in
the Department of Education with a nearly 12 percent increase in
The President's budget also makes sure that Social Security and
Medicare are strengthened and preserved. The President's plan takes
care of the working uninsured with refundable tax credits. We double
the Medicare budget over a 10 year period of time. Another priority
is to make sure that the Social Security system is safe and secure.
And it starts with spending the Social Security money on only one
thing: Social Security.
A prescription drug benefit for low-income seniors is created so
that no one will have to choose between buying food and buying medicine.
Our national defense is strengthened and the quality of life for
military personnel will be improved.
After meeting the nation's priorities and putting money back into
the pockets of taxpayers, the President uses the remaining surplus
to pay down all the possible debt that can be paid. That comes to
2 trillion dollars over 10 years.
I understand the struggles that many of you here today encounter
in dealing with the problems of Arizona's communities and I am pleased
to report that President Bush has made a strong commitment to meeting
our nation's priorities with a responsible budget, keeping our debt
down, and refunding Americans' money when they were overcharged
by the government. . . .
In conclusion, let me say this: It is a deep honor and privilege
to serve in the cabinet of the President of the United States.
As I sit in my chair in the cabinet room I look across the table
and see a great leader in President Bush. I look to the left and
see Secretary of State Colin Powell the son of Jamaican immigrants.
Further down to the table sits the Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao,
herself an immigrant from Taiwan, and myself a refugee from Communist
Cuba, all living the American Dream.
And every day as I have the privilege of serving this President
and the American people, I thank God that we live in a country where
an Elaine Chao, a Colin Powell, and a Mel Martinez, all from humble
beginnings, can ascend to the highest levels of public service.
For I am a firm believer in the promise of America. The promise
that regardless of where you are from, what language you speak,
or the color of your skin, if you share the American Dream of a
brighter tomorrow, if you pursue it with respect for the law and
for others, and with an abiding faith in God, all things are possible.
Thank you and God bless.
Content Archived: March 11, 2010