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Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz Joins Congressman Brian Higgins for a House of Representatives Budget Committee Hearing on the Importance of Federal Investments to Local Communities

Jan 15, 2020
Press Release
Infrastructure, the Opioid Epidemic, Community Development Among Issues Discussed

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz provided testimony before the House Budget Committee, of which Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is a member, during a hearing in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, January 15, titled: “Why Federal Investments Matter: Stability from Congress to State Capitals.”

This fiscal year the federal government will provide roughly $750 billion in grants, through a variety of programs, to state and local governments – representing an estimated 3.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product and 16 percent of all federal spending. 

During the hearing County Executive Poloncarz advocated for a significant federal investment in infrastructure, “Another key area that has been impacted from a lack of federal assistance is our infrastructure, said Poloncarz. “Erie County owns and maintains more than 2,400 lane miles of road. That is more lane miles than the states of Delaware, Hawaii and Rhode Island each have. Federal dollars used to play an important role in completing many projects a year. Unfortunately, with no major federal infrastructure bill in recent years, we have only been able to complete a few large projects with the limited federal assistance we received. That is why I strongly support legislation introduced by Congressman Higgins. It would provide a major investment in our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, support good-paying middle-America jobs, and will be desperately needed during any future recessions.”

Higgins & Poloncarz Discuss the Important Role Federal Investments Have Made In Combating the Opioid Epidemic (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E43_oiJ2Bo&feature=youtu.be)

Poloncarz went on to explain how federal investments combatting the opioid epidemic are saving lives and Higgins recognized Erie County’s work as a national leader in addressing opioid abuse.  Poloncarz said, “Our Departments of Health and Mental Health have led the effort in combatting the opioid epidemic, with substantial grant assistance provided by various federal agencies. I am proud to say the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance considers Erie County to be the model county on how to respond to the opioid crisis. However, we would not be in that position, meaning more people would have died, without the significant financial assistance received from the Federal government.”

Higgins and Poloncarz recently announced over $3.4 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to combat the opioid epidemic in Erie County. 

In 2018 President Trump proposed slashing the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 95%, and in 2019 the President proposed eliminating it entirely and instead spreading the programs out among agencies, a plan that would have de-centralized the coordinated effort against the opioid crisis made it harder to achieve success.  Congress preserved the Office of National Drug Control Policy and reversed drastic cuts to Medicaid, which has successfully expanded access to treatment.

In Budget Committee, Higgins Points Out Significant Return on Federal Investments in Our Communities (Video: https://youtu.be/ikKHIQTIUXM)

Higgins pointed out that federal investments often produce a significant return on investment, noting: “One last thing on federal investments and how they impact local communities. The recent tax cut plan primarily to corporations, for every dollar that you give away in a tax cut, most economists, even the most conservative, say that you can hope to retain a get back about 32 cents. So, the loss of investment is 68%. If you look at federal programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, showing that for every dollar you spend you get $4 in economic growth at the local level. Community Development Block Grant program, infrastructure spending, historic tax credits which made a primary role in the revitalization of Buffalo and Erie County, those are good, solid investments into the growth of the American economy, and may help county executives like Mark Poloncarz, because there are more sales tax revenues we have grown, or better property tax revenues

Poloncarz spoke about the value of community-led neighborhood investments made possible through the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, noting: “the county administers the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants for 34 municipalities, including our entire rural area. These grants, which require a local match, support everything from main street improvements to clean water projects. The grants are a vital lifeline to help our smaller communities address specific needs; just as they help the City of Buffalo build affordable, safe housing. Should the CDBG program be eliminated as the Trump administration has repeatedly proposed, all areas of our county – urban, suburban and rural – would be negatively impacted.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the program, finds that Community Development Block Grants leverage $3.55 in additional resources for every $1 in federal investment.

The Great Lakes Restoration Imitative (GLRI) has invested over $70 million in projects in Buffalo.  A study shows that each federal dollar invested in Buffalo will yield $4 in additional economic activity, a higher rate than the average of $3.35 across all the GLRI areas. The work has contributed to the growth of Buffalo’s waterfront, including destinations like Canalside and Riverworks, new apartments, and recreational options.

Historic Tax Credits provide another example of federal resources that provide positive ripple effects across communities.  Historic Tax Credits have brought more than $1.27 billion in investment to Western New York since 1999. This federal program, which is matched with state dollars in New York, revitalizes older properties, increases property values which in turn fund local schools, roads, infrastructure, and other critical public services. 

Other witnesses during Wednesday’s hearing included: Dr. Tracy Gordon, Senior Fellow, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center; Dr. Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner, Department of Health and Human Services, State of Maine; The Hon. Larry Walther, Chief Fiscal Officer; and Director, Department of Finance and Administration, State of Arkansas; and Kim Murnieks, Director, Office of Budget and Management, State of Ohio.”

Federal money represents 36 percent of the revenue for the New York State budget.  Still, New York State contributes more to the federal government than the State receives.

A preliminary report issued by the Budget Committee in advance of the hearing notes: Trump Administration budgets have included massive cuts to states and localities — Instead of strengthening federal investments in state and local communities, the President’s proposals have done the opposite. They have included massive reductions in Medicaid, TANF, infrastructure funding, education, environmental protections, and economic development. Congress rejected these proposals and must do so again if the President includes similar proposals in his 2021 budget request. Instead, we must focus on strengthening the investments that support states and localities when they need it most.

President Trump is expected to deliver his proposed fiscal year 2021 budget to Congress on February 10, 2020.

For the full video of the House Budget Committee hearing go to: https://budget.house.gov/legislation/hearings/why-federal-investments-matter-stability-congress-state-capitals