Speaker Pelosi Commends Mayors for 2010 Metro Priorities
Promises to Continue Funding for Energy Block Grants
By Larry Jones
February 1, 2010
Speaking to mayors attending the January 20 opening Plenary session, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commended Conference of Mayors President Burnsville (MN) Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz for "The 2010 Metro Agenda for America," which identifies key priorities that the nation's mayors would like to see included in the jobs bill currently being developed by Congress. The document also includes recommendations in several other key policy areas, including surface transportation reauthorization; climate protection, energy independence and the energy block grant; airport security; and strengthening successful federal investments.
"I know your personal leadership is responsible for this great initiative. I will study it carefully as I did [an earlier document listing Conference priorities] several years ago — Stronger Families, Stronger Cities, Stronger America. And we took our lead from that, and I will with your more recent initiative," she said. Because of Pelosi's strong support, $3.2 billion was included in last year's stimulus bill (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or ARRA) for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), which was a top priority of the Conference of Mayors.
Since funding for EECBG was approved for only one year in the stimulus bill, mayors have again made the issue a top priority in 2010, and continue to push for annual funding of the program. In response, Pelosi said, "I have heard what you've said about the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants. We certainly intend for them to be annual and more forthcoming in our budget."
She also acknowledged former Conference President Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer for his leadership on energy efficiency and for his work with high school kids. She explained that Palmer invited her to Trenton where she witnessed him taking the issue into high schools where students learned about putting in solar panels that will reduce the cost of energy. It will also help them learn a trade and become exposed to jobs of the future. Commenting on her visit, she said, "I invited them when I was there to come visit the Speaker's office and they did. And they want to know what we're going to do next. But for sure, you can tell them that the block grants will be continued."
Pelosi told mayors that the passage of AARA last year pulled the country back from the brink of a deeper recession. In ARRA, additional funds were approved for public safety, education, transportation and many other areas to help create jobs. And although AARA has accomplished much, she acknowledged that more must be done to address the high level of unemployment in communities across the nation. That's why the House passed a $154 billion jobs bill last December to help spur additional job growth. "Our jobs initiative was called the Jobs for Main Street Act, and it was important to name it that way because so much has been said about how actions and recklessness on Wall Street have affected joblessness on Main Street. And we want our focus on Main Street," she said.
Included in the House version of the jobs bill is additional support to help local governments retain as well as hire new police officers, fire fighters and teachers. It also includes additional support for summer youth jobs, small business loans, transportation and other infrastructure jobs supported by the Conference. The Senate has not yet acted on its version of the bill. Senators Richard Durbin (IL) and Byron Dorgan (ND) have been assigned to spearhead efforts in the Senate to develop a bill. Action on the Senate version and a final jobs bill is expected soon.