I AM TODAY signing the Independent Offices and HUD Appropriation Act for fiscal year 1968.
This measure represents a cut from the budget request of January of more than $600 million. More than $500 million of that has been slashed from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Some have called the passage of this act a legislative victory. It might better be called a legislative miracle--the opposition was that strong. Ninety-three percent of House Republicans voted to recommit and kill rent supplements. Eighty percent voted to recommit and delete all funds for model cities. Despite the effective opposition of so many Republicans, the lives of both these vital programs--rent supplements and model cities--have now been extended.
But it was no victory for the 200 American cities which have already submitted model cities applications. For them the reduction this year of $350 million alone in model cities funds comes as a bitter blow.
It was no victory for the 30,000 poor families who will be denied and deprived of decent housing built and operated by private industry because the rent supplement program was cut from $40 million to $10 million.
It was no victory for more than 500,000 needy city dwellers who could have been reached by the new "one-stop" neighborhood centers which this measure eliminated.
It was no victory for tens of thousands of suburbanites and commuters around our congested cities when next year's urban mass transit appropriation was reduced by $55 million.
Last August, I wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mansfield urging that Congress appropriate the full funds for our city programs. I said we can no longer be satisfied with "business as usual."
"These problems," I noted, "demand the best that an enlightened nation can plan, and the most that an affluent nation can afford."
The Senate responded by approving virtually all of the budget requests with some Republican Senators voting to help.
But in the end, the familiar old voices of reaction and status quo prevailed in the conference with the House. They prevailed even after the Nation's leading private insurance executives came to the White House and promised me to make an investment of $1 billion in our cities--to work hand-in-hand with our Federal programs. They prevailed even after last summer's agony when Congress cut the budget request for housing and urban development by more than 25 percent while reducing everything else in this $10 billion appropriations bill by a total of less than 1 percent. This represents a disordered sense of priorities and a blindness to human needs. And, in the process, our American cities and the American people have been shortchanged.
Despite these setbacks, however, we will not allow the programs to falter, although they are much smaller than we would like them to be. I have directed Secretary Weaver, operating with these reduced funds:
--To speed processing time so that these programs can get to people faster.
--To spend every taxpayer's dollar carefully, wisely, and effectively.
--To encourage the maximum involvement of the private sector through the new "Turnkey" concept.
So I sign this measure, not with a full sense of achievement, but with the determination to move ahead, to fulfill a pledge I made nearly 4 years ago: "A decent home in a decent neighborhood for every American citizen."