Banking Committee Democrats Question Carson on Plans to Slash HUD Budget

Washington Post Report on Trump Administration Considering 14 Percent Cut to Housing and Urban Development Budget Contradicts Secretary Carson's Confirmation Hearing Testimony

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs today questioned Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on a report that the Trump Administration has considered slashing the department's fiscal 2018 budget by more than $6 billion. The lawmakers stressed that cuts of this magnitude would be devastating for children and families nationwide, and would contradict Carson’s testimony to the Banking Committee during his Jan. 12 confirmation hearing.

In a letter to Carson, the Senators called the proposed cuts “unconscionable,” noting that Carson told the Banking Committee that reducing agency budgets by 10 percent – a figure he had previously supported – was too steep. Carson testified that he supported only a 1 percent across-the-board spending cut, and that it would be “cruel and unusual punishment to withdraw these programs before you provide an alternative route.”

According to plans obtained by the Washington Post, the Trump Administration has considered reducing HUD’s budget by more than $6 billion, or about 14 percent, to $40.5 billion in fiscal 2018. The proposal would include a cut of $1.3 billion – nearly 70 percent – in the public housing repair budget, which would leave more children, families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities exposed to mold, lead, and other health hazards, the Senators wrote.

“You testified to your understanding of the real impacts that substandard housing have on the health and opportunities of children and their families, in particular how it is far more costly to ignore lead hazards than to spend the money to abate them,” the Senators wrote. “If this reported budget stands, you will most certainly be presiding over an unprecedented attack on the health of some our most vulnerable Americans. It cannot stand and, if you are to remain true to the testimony you gave under oath, it must not.”

The letter was signed by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the Banking Committee’s Ranking Member, and Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

The full text of the letter follows:

March 10, 2017

The Honorable Ben Carson

Secretary

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

451 7th St., SW

Washington, D.C. 20410

Dear Secretary Carson,

During your confirmation hearing before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs two months ago, you indicated in your testimony and in response to questions from committee members that you supported the mission of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  More to the point, you were asked repeatedly what your stated support of its mission would mean for the funding of the department.

You had previously taken the position that all federal agencies should be reduced by 10 percent a year until the budget was balanced.  You were asked about this position, and dismissed the question, stating that you had modified your views so that you supported only a one percent across-the-board spending cut, and that it would be “cruel and unusual punishment to withdraw these programs before you provide an alternative route.”

Given your testimony, we were surprised and concerned to read in The Washington Post that you are contemplating a 14 percent cut to HUD’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

It is unconscionable to consider cutting this amount, including nearly $2 billion from the public housing capital and operating funds.  You testified to your understanding of the real impacts that substandard housing have on the health and opportunities of children and their families, in particular how it is far more costly to ignore lead hazards than to spend the money to abate them.  The maintenance backlog for our public housing is enormous, and yet you would add to it.

The suggestion that some HUD funds will be addressed as part of an infrastructure package provides no assurance whatsoever.  The Administration has made clear that infrastructure is not an immediate priority, and that it hopes to finance its plans through tolls and other offsets.  While we hope that view does not prevail, it will clearly not work to address our community infrastructure needs.

A cut of $1.3 billion – nearly 70 percent - in the public housing repair budget will mean more children, families, elderly, and individuals with disabilities will be exposed to mold, lead, and other health hazards.  If this reported budget stands, you will most certainly be presiding over an unprecedented attack on the health of some our most vulnerable Americans.

It cannot stand and, if you are to remain true to the testimony you gave under oath, it must not.

Sincerely,

 

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Press Contact

Greg Vadala (Senate Banking: 202-224-6677)