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Mayor James backs anti-recession plan.

"By acting affirmatively on this proposal, you will once again place the needs of the people in America's cities and towns on the federal budget agenda," NLC Second Vice President Sharpe James, mayor of Newark, N.J. told the House Government Operations Subcommittee on Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations.

James represented NLC in support of the anti-recessionary amendment to HR 3601, The Local Partnership Act as proposed by Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.), at last week's hearing.

The Conyers amendment would provide an immediate infusion of $15 billion dollars in funding to be distributed to cities, counties and towns via direct payments from the federal government in year one of a five year plan with an overall value of $43 billion. The funds would have to be spent within one year of receipt or returned to the Federal Treasury. Eligible spending categories for the funds would include education, public safety, health, environment and social services.

City officials need to write their Representatives with specific examples of programs and personnel that have been cut, tax increases that have been imposed and what the recession is doing to their budget and what is expected in the next fiscal year. This information should be sent to the House Government Operations Committee and individual Representative and Senators should be contacted directly to find out what funds would be available to your community under the Local Partnership Act.

Conyers has said that high priority uses of the funds should include the rehiring of laid- off public workers, restoration of services which have been cut and the expansion of those services which have been overburdened by the recession.

Mayor James was joined on the panel by Mayor David Dinkins of New York, Mayor Joan Barr of Evanston, Ill. and Parris Glendening, elected County Executive of Prince Georges County, Md. before the House Government Operations Subcommittee on Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations, chaired by Representative Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.)

In his testimony James pointed out that the current recession creates a "triple whammy" domino effect on city governments across the country: Continuing budget cuts, such cuts being the worst on the hardest hit places and impacting most heavily on services most critical to the long-term viability of communities across the country. "Cities and towns, both large and small, with the greatest and most pressing human needs are the very cities and towns where the cuts are the deepest and the tax rises the steepest."

The $15 billion amendment is designed to provide part of a "jump- start" to the stalled economy and is an add-on to the proposed Local Partnership Act introduced by Representative Conyers who chairs the House Government Operations Committee. The $15 billion would be distributed either in FY 93 or partially in the current 1992 fiscal year and partially in FY93. Under the basic bill $4 billion would be distributed in FY 94, $8 billion in FY 95,$11 billion in FY96, and $14 billion in FY 97.

Dinkins, in his testimony said that, "We cannot leave our local governments in the position of adding employees to the rolls of the unemployed or drastically cutting already reduced services." Mayor Dinkins also cited the NLC opinion survey, released in January, in which 24 percent of responding city officials said that they can no longer keep up with public safety needs in their communities and in which 34 percent described job prospects for a young person in their community as "poor."

Barr asked that the committee enact the program on an emergency basis and also loosen temporarily some federal requirements that might slow the spending of the funds. County Executive Glendening in responding to questions about whether this is the very best way to "jump-start" the economy said "I would rather charge up the hill with a good program than bleed in the trenches waiting for the best program."

Prospects

Comments among the subcommittee members were generally favorable. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D - Conn.) said in supporting the program, "After the federal government does what it is going to do and after the state governments do whatever they are going to do then local governments have to make do."

Prospects for the program at the full committee level and on the House floor are in doubt without strong support from local government officials.

Information justifying the need for such a program and demonstrating interest in such a program need to reach Congress quickly as the House leadership has directed that overall budget priorities decisions in the House proceed on a very fast track.
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Title Annotation:Sharpe James of Newark, New Jersey
Author:Peterson, Doug
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 10, 1992
Words:755
Previous Article:NLC testifies domestic agenda secures future.
Next Article:Partnership Act needs local support, action.
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