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Public Papers - 1991

Statement on Signing the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 1992

1991-10-28

Today I have signed into law H.R. 2519, the ``Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 1992.''

The Act provides the funding necessary for our space program, key elements of the Nation's research enterprise, a strong program of environmental protection, important programs relating to the Nation's veterans, and various housing programs. While many sections of the Act provide funds for priority activities requested by the Administration, several housing provisions are flawed.

Although it does not fully fund the Administration's request for civil space activities, the Act provides the funds necessary to maintain a balanced and forward-looking space program. An increase of almost 10 percent is provided for space science programs. Funding is provided to advance work on the engine for the proposed New Launch System. In addition, Space Station Freedom, an essential step in meeting our future space objectives, received an increase of almost 7 percent, an amount adequate to keep the project on schedule during the current fiscal year.

The Act funds the Administration's request for a range of environmental protection programs. The operating budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes funds for implementing the Clean Air Act, enforcing our environmental laws, and improving the science base for environmental protection, will grow by approximately 11 percent. I am pleased that the Act also funds my request for special grants to accelerate progress in meeting sewage treatment requirements in Boston Harbor, New York Harbor, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Seattle. I would note that the Congress has again reduced my request for funding for Superfund cleanups. The Administration is committed to accelerating progress in cleaning up hazardous waste sites.

The Act provides an 11 percent increase for important research and education programs under the National Science Foundation (NSF). I believe that a strong basic research program is vital to America's continuing ability to compete in world markets. Although this Act provides a higher proportion of requested research funds than has been the recent practice, the Act has reduced the requested 16 percent increase for research and related programs to an 11 percent increase. These core research programs of the NSF primarily fund individual investigators, the backbone of American science and the source of most of our new discoveries. I ask the Congress to work with me to ensure the future strength of America's vital research and development enterprise.

This Act meets the needs of our Nation's veterans. The Act provides .6 billion for VA Medical Care, an increase of .3 billion over the FY 1991 enacted level. This increase will allow the Department to provide quality care to all eligible veterans and will enhance access to important services, including those for veterans who are AIDS sufferers and for veterans seeking drug abuse treatment. The 1 million appropriation for the administration of VA benefits provided in the Act will enable the Department to handle all benefit claims, including those related to Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Therefore, I am not designating an additional .1 million for the administration of benefits as ``emergency requirements'' under the provisions of the Budget Enforcement Act.

I am disappointed, however, in several provisions of the Act related to housing. Language in the final Act -- contained in neither the House- nor Senate-passed versions of the bill -- prevents HUD from promulgating a regulation concerning the Public Housing program. This extraordinarily objectionable provision cancels HUD's efforts to make vitally necessary reforms in the Public Housing program. By this action, the Congress ensures that HUD pays local housing authorities to operate vacant public housing units. This means that there is less incentive to take needy people off of waiting lists. Further, this provision points to the problems that arise when the Federal Government subsidizes buildings rather than people.

I am greatly concerned over the inadequate funding levels for the Administration's important housing initiatives that emphasize tenant choice, homeownership opportunities, and coordinated housing-service delivery to the homeless. The Congress has provided approximately 40 percent of the requested funding level for the Homeownership and Opportunity for People Everywhere program (HOPE), a program that would enable low-income persons to take control of their lives through homeownership. Further, the Congress has provided no funding for the flexible rental housing component of the Shelter Plus Care program, the Administration's initiative for the homeless.

I am disappointed that the Congress continues to support housing programs that are very costly and that do not offer choice to poor families because new buildings, rather than poor families, receive subsidies. Further, the Congress has provided 0 million for unauthorized, special purpose projects, an action that is inconsistent with the policy goals of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Reform Act of 1989.

I am disturbed that the Congress has chosen to waive the non-Federal matching requirement for the HOME program for 1992. The graduated match required in the HOME program reflected both the spirit of partnership between States, localities, and the Federal Government and the strong incentive toward rehabilitation of substandard housing and tenant-based assistance. The waiver not only eliminates the incentive for rehabilitation and tenant assistance, but, more significantly, it strips the program of the ability to induce more investment in low-income housing.

The Congress had an especially difficult task balancing the diverse and competing priorities funded in this Act. Notwithstanding the concerns I have expressed, I appreciate their efforts. We will continue to work with the Congress to seek solutions to the problems I have noted and to attend to the priorities I have identified.

George Bush

The White House,

October 28, 1991.

Note: H.R. 2519, approved October 28, was assigned Public Law No. 102 - 139.

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