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City wants lots of federal money

Why is Congress having such a hard time balancing the federal budget? One reason is that state and local governments have grown so dependant on federal spending, as illustrated by the 2013 Federal Legislative Agenda to be considered by the Portland City Council on Wednesday.

The proposed agenda is a list of congressional policies and priorities supported by the council. Most of them call for continued or increased funding of federal programs that benefit state and local governments. The proposed agenda does not identify any programs that can be cut, and only offers a few recommendations for increasing federal revenue.

“The legislative agenda was developed to reflect the needs of the city for economic development through environmental clean-up, public safety, affordable housing, transportation infrastructure, pre-disaster mitigation, as well as other needs," wrote Mayor Charlie Hales in a memo submitted to the council. "The city aims to work diligently with members of Oregon's congressional delegation and the administration to move these agenda items forward.”

The financial impact and public involvement statement submitted with the agenda does not say how much total federal funding it supports. Some of the recommendations support federal funding for other local governments, including Multnomah County and school districts.

Just about the new source of federal revenue recommended by the agenda would help fund transportation-related projects. There the agenda calls for the implementation of vehicle miles traveled charges to supplement federal gas tax revenue, which have not been keeping pace with inflation.

The proposed agenda also takes positions on a number of issues. They include support for stricter gun control laws and opposition to stopping Saturday mail deliveries.

The following are just a few of federal funding requests included in the agenda:

• Affordable housing through the following funding sources: Community Development Block Grants, which allow communities to address a wide range of unique community development and affordable housing needs; HOME Investment Partnerships Program grants to implement local housing strategies designed to increase homeownership and affordable housing opportunities for low and very low-income Americans; Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS funds, which provide states, local communities, and nonprofit organizations support for projects that benefit low-income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS; and McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs, which provide funding for a spectrum of services to homeless people, including the Continuum of Care Programs.

• Efforts to fight climate change through federal investment in mass transit as a means of reducing carbon emissions from vehicles. The proposed agenda also encourages federal action to provide resources to prepare for climate impacts and meet the urgent need to invest in related infrastructure.

• Economic development assistance through: direct municipal aid to local governments to generate economic growth and create employment opportunities, including traditional infrastructure funding for transportation and water priorities, as well as funding for social services and housing assistance to prevent families from losing their homes, and substantial investment in education to provide for an educated workforce, In addition, the proposed agenda supports funding for the State Trade and Export Promotion Grant program; the Export-Import Bank or the Small Business Administration, to provide resources to small- to medium-sized businesses to seek foreign market opportunities; and U.S. Export Assistance Centers and the Foreign Commercial Service, which are needed to meet the demands generated by increased export activity.

• Education support through funding for: Title I grants to local educational agencies; individuals with Disabilities Education Act programming; School Improvement State Grants; Improving Teacher Quality State Grants; 21st Century Community Learning Centers; and Career & Technical Education State Grants; Head Start; and college student tuition assistance.

• Emergency preparedness programs funding by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants to states, territories, native tribes, communities, and universities for mitigation planning and the implementation of those plans before a catastrophe occurs. The agenda also supports the protection of funding for the Urban Areas Security Initiative that addresses the planning, operational, equipment, training and exercise needs of high threat urban areas and assists in building capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from natural disasters as well as threats and acts of terrorism.

• Mental health services funded through Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants and Community Mental Health Services Block Grants through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The agenda also supports federal funding for mobile mental health crisis intervention teams.

• Parks funding through the Community Parks Revitalization Act, which will commit funding toward the rehabilitation and construction of our nation's community parks, as well as funding for recreational programming.

• Police training funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, such as: the COPS Universal Hiring Program, which provide salaries and benefits of newly hired officers engaged in community policing; the the COPS Technology Program, which establishes and enhances a variety of technical equipment and programs to encourage the continuation and advancement of community policing efforts within local jurisdictions; and Byrne ]ustice Assistance Grants, which provides funding to allow states and local governments to support a broad range of programs to prevent illegal drug activities, control violent crime and improve the criminal justice system.

• Public safety through funding of the Enhanced 9-1-1 Act of 2004, authorized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to establish a national 9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office to administer a grant program.

• Renewable energy support through the passage of the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act, which would extend the Production Tax Credit for certain wind, biomass, and other types of renewable energy production through 2016.

• Transportation, transit and trail projects funded through Small Starts, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants, Recreation Trails Program grants and High-Speed and Intercity Rail program grants.

The full proposed agenda can be found online at www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=50265&a=434522