Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Blog
- Posted byon July 22, 2011 at 7:21 PM EDT
With ten days left before the looming Congressional deadline to raise the debt ceiling, I am hosting a gathering of fifty of the nation’s mayors in Los Angeles over the next two days, to urge Congress to reach an agreement on the debt limit to prevent default and ask them to invest in job creating programs.
Default will have an immediate and catastrophic impact on our cities, the implications are global, and economists agree. A credit downgrade will plunge us into a deep, double-dip recession. We urge Congressional leaders to act now.
The Congressional Research Service has estimated that if the debt ceiling is not increased, “the federal government would have to eliminate all spending on discretionary programs.” That means every federal payment to cities will stop, either immediately or shortly after default. The cuts would eliminate support for critical local programs including housing and community development, CDBG, COPS, Homeland Security, job training, and transportation infrastructure. This would have a crippling effect on our cities and on our people.
Additionally, local governments would also be prevented from issuing tax-exempt bonds. And cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would take billions more out of local economies.
Mayors understand that raising the debt ceiling isn't a partisan issue. The debt ceiling was raised 17 times under President Reagan, 4 times under President Clinton, 7 times under President George W. Bush, and has been raised 3 times under President Obama.
- Posted byon July 21, 2011 at 2:59 PM EDT
Earlier this week, I visited Portland in Multnomah County, Oregon, for the National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference, a gathering of 2,000 county leaders from across the country. I met with dozens of county leaders, and was once again reminded of the conviction and guts that America’s local officials demonstrate each and every day in their jobs.
America’s county leaders are rightly proud of what they do. Their decisions have a direct impact on some of the most vulnerable in our society, including seniors and people living with disabilities. They manage some of our most basic services, often running the county hospitals, managing the jails, and directing local law enforcement efforts. In all of these areas, especially in these tough times, these county officials are being forced to make tough choices, explain their actions to the public, and then move on to the next difficult issue.
They compared the choices we face in Washington to their own challenges, and emphasized that in their worlds, taking a balanced approach to any budget discussion is absolutely critical. Here are some specific thoughts from some of these county officials on the ongoing debt negotiations:
Commissioner Sally Heyman from Miami-Dade County, FL
“Resolving the national deficit with a balanced approach should not be partisan-driven, but practicality-driven. Then the President and Congress can refocus attention on the other pressing and important issues.”
Supervisor Valerie Brown from Sonoma County, CA
“The majority of our health and human services rely on federal funding... it is time for Congress to work together as counties do every day for their constituents.”
- Posted byon July 20, 2011 at 10:03 AM EDT
This week I had the opportunity to talk to a large number of elected and appointed county officials from across the country who gathered in Portland, Oregon for the 76th National Association of Counties Annual Meeting.
The message I brought to them is that we can work together to accelerate the growth of exports and the American jobs they support. I believe that strengthening our partnerships will help us to create the jobs of the future.
In his 2010 State of the Union, President Obama announced his National Export Initiative, or NEI, which mobilizes departments throughout the federal government to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 supporting several million jobs. Solidifying our partnerships will help us achieve this goal. Partnering with the more than 3,000 counties across the country can grow their economies and create jobs through the NEI.
- Posted byon July 15, 2011 at 5:58 PM EDT
Next week, I’ll participate in the 2011 Annual Conference of the National Association of Counties(NACo) with partners from across the Administration.
The timing is bittersweet for me, as I prepare to return to Seattle after more than two years as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But this conference reminds me how far we’ve come since I first spoke to NACo two years ago – and the steps we’ve taken to help cities and regions tackle common challenges together.
Having served as King County Executive in Washington for a dozen years before coming to HUD, I knew all too well that the Federal government wasn’t usually part of that conversation. And when it was, the Federal government was more often a barrier to progress than the kind of partner we needed.
In King County, we created a regional affordable housing program, one of our nation’s first regional climate plans, and established light rail service that connected some of the most distressed areas of Greater Seattle. Virtually on our own, we turned into the kind of thriving metropolitan region we need to win the future.
Unfortunately, without a federal partner to help places facing similar challenges cut through the red tape and leverage private investment, the kinds of turnarounds we’ve seen in Seattle or Boston or Pittsburgh have been all too rare.
But because of President Obama, Secretary Donovan and leaders throughout this Administration, that’s beginning to change. They realize that our metros produce over 80 percent of the nation’s patents and exports, where 90 cents out of every dollar America produces come from, and where more than 8-in-10 residents live. And they know competitors like China and India realize it, too.
- Posted byon July 15, 2011 at 9:15 AM EDT
Recently, the White House hosted 200 young elected officials from 40 states for a series of briefings and a reception where the President stopped by. Throughout the day, we spoke with a few of the elected officials about what it meant to hear directly from the President and why they would encourage other young people to run for office. Previously we heard from Oregon State Representative Jefferson Smith, Colorado City Councilman Chris Herndon, and Nebraska State Senator Amanda McGill. This week, Colorado Representative Dan Pabon and Wakulla Florida County Commissioner Alan Brock tell us about their experiences as young elected officials.
Michael Block is the Assistant Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.
- Posted byon July 14, 2011 at 6:12 PM EDT
Earlier this week, President Obama spoke with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and a small bi-partisan group of mayors on the progress towards finding a solution that both lets our nation keep its obligations and finds a balanced approach to deficit reduction. The President explained why getting our nation’s fiscal house in order must be a top priority, and highlighted how we have a unique opportunity to find a solution that not only raises the debt ceiling so we can pay our nation’s bills, but also takes our fiscal challenges head on by significantly reducing our deficits. The President understands that just like families across the nation, mayors in every state struggle everyday to make the tough choices necessary to keep their local economies going. He believes that leaders in Washington need to make the same kinds of tough choices and come together to find common ground and show the American people that we can do big things as a nation.
Mayors across the country share what they think:
Our government needs to do what families across America have done since this recession began – solve its financial problems and start living within its means. As a nation, it is imperative that we get our finances under control, reduce our deficit, and work to fix the country’s long-term financial problems. Playing politics with the full faith and credit of the United States of America is simply not an option.
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