Melanie Hunter | Deputy Managing Editor | Monday, February 14, 2005
Schumer called Bush's plan to transfer the grant program to the Commerce Department and merge it with 17 other economic development programs a "meat axe approach" to reducing the deficit, adding that CDBGs "are the single most important tool that cities like New York have to grow."
According to Clinton, the program "is a lifeline for many individuals already struggling to make ends meet. And now the President wants to leave them out in the cold." But Citizens Against Government Waste said taxpayers have been the ones left out in the cold.
CAGW said local governments have "wide latitude" to determine how the grants are spent and Congress does a "poor job" tracking where the money goes. Past grants have included $19,000 for Christmas lights, $21,000 for a picnic, and $250,000 for "streetscape improvements," the group noted.
CAGW pointed out that funds for CDBGs are often diverted for other purposes, such as theaters, opera houses, and museums in wealthy areas. For example, last fall the Buffalo News reported that the city had spend most of the block grant money it had received over the past 30 years, the group said.
"Far from being an essential tool for combating poverty, CDBGs have become just another budgetary channel for pork and waste," CAGW said.
The CDBG program, which provides $4.7 billion to cities and towns nationwide in 2005, is on the list of 154 program cuts or terminations specified in Bush's 2006 budget plan. The program cuts will save $20 billion.
"Sen. Schumer makes the absurd contention that federal handouts are the engine of New York's economy. With a gross state product of $826 billion in 2001, 'losing' $150 million in CDBGs would hardly constitute a catastrophic blow to the state's economy," the group said.
"The real issue in New York is the negative impact of highest tax burden of any state - an undeniable drag on economic growth. New York City's rent control laws cause landlords to neglect capital improvements or abandon properties altogether," CAGW said.
"Sen. Clinton's comment that budget cuts will leave residents "out in the cold" is laced with irony, considering that recipients of CDBGs often drive local stores and real estate investors out of business," added CAGW.
"For resisting much-need reforms in a wasteful program, for exaggerating the supposed benefits of CDBGs, and for leaning on federal grants to cover up local problems, CAGW names New York Sens. Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer its February Porkers of the Month," the group concluded.
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