Landrieu Funding Priorities For Louisiana Pass Senate [Commentary]
The U.S. Senate today approved funding legislation that incorporates measures championed by United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. These include funding for transit projects, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and smart growth initiatives, as well as improvements to the Rural Development Community Facility loan program.
These provisions were included in appropriations legislation that combines the FY 2012 Agriculture, Rural Development and the Food and Drug Administration; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD); and Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bills. This legislation passed the House and Senate today and now goes to the President to be signed into law.
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill
This legislation provides $500 million in funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant Program. These funds can be used for all types of infrastructure projects, including investments in high-speed rail, a major priority of Sen. Landrieu’s. This will help build an efficient, high-speed and emerging high-speed passenger rail network connecting major population centers. Although the House stripped the $100 million from the High-Speed rail program that Sen. Landrieu helped secure, investments in high-speed rail will continue via the TIGER Grant Program.
“Investments in high-speed rail will help create jobs while providing easier and more convenient modes of transit,” Sen. Landrieu said. “High-speed rail helps reduce traffic congestion as well as increase the flow of commerce and deserves to play a key role in transportation in Louisiana and throughout the country.”
The bill also provides funding for many key programs that further the Senator’s commitment to Smart Growth Initiatives including:
- An additional $100 million for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Communities can compete for these dollars, which may be used for a variety of purposes - including housing and transportation planning - to encourage sustainable development patterns for residents and businesses.
- $120 million for the HUD CHOICE Neighborhoods Initiative that helps public housing authorities demolish obsolete or failed developments.
- $35 million for the Capacity Building for the Community Development program. This program helps community development corporations attract private investment for housing, economic development and other community revitalization activities.
- $50 million for the Transformation Initiative Fund (TI), which can be used as an alternative to Sustainable Communities program for smart growth activities.
Agriculture, Rural Development and the Food and Drug Administration appropriations bill
Sen. Landrieu secured language to allow projects involving wetlands to qualify for USDA Rural Development Community Facility loans. Community facility projects that would affect wetlands are currently ineligible for these loans under the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act. This is particularly problematic for Louisiana as one-fourth of the state is wetlands and 58 out of 64 parishes are considered rural. However, every U.S. state has some wetlands, making this a national problem. Sen. Landrieu was able to secure an amendment to provide one year of relief to these projects, as long as they have the proper permit.
Sen. Landrieu successfully:
- Secured $2.9 million for the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) to administer Rural Community Advancement Program (RCAP) Grants. DRA is a Federal-State partnership that seeks to improve the quality of life for the residents of the Mississippi River Delta Region. RCAP is designed to assist small communities with low per capita incomes develop strategies to spur economic development.
- Restored more than $1 million for NIFA research funds that had been cut in the House. These USDA dollars fund land-grant university programs in research and extension across the nation.
“I am proud that I was able to restore this critical funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which provides a robust allocation to Louisiana. This program generates valuable research and is critical to sustaining vibrant agricultural industries in Louisiana. These investments help create jobs and support worthwhile initiatives across the state including 4-H clubs, better farming practices, nutrition programs, wood recycling and timber management,” said Sen. Landrieu.