Push Bipartisan Priorities with Administration & Congress During U.S. Conference of Mayors Leadership Meeting
Washington, D.C. — Following their national day of action in support of affordable and comprehensive health care in February, the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) leadership spent two days in Washington, DC pressing Administration officials and Congressional leaders for details on issues important to people living in cities and their metropolitan areas – particularly infrastructure investment, immigration, public safety and healthcare.
Under the leadership of U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) President Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, USCM Vice President New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, USCM Second Vice President Columbia (SC) Mayor Stephen Benjamin, a bipartisan delegation of more than 30 mayors made sure leaders in Washington understood that while cities are home to innovation, creativity and cultural diversity, they still need federal support to address crumbling infrastructure — from roads and bridges to power grids and water systems — as well as inadequate resources for many local programs that may be slated for budget cuts.
“Nobody knows what the specific needs in a city are better than the city government and the mayor,” said Cornett.
During the two days, Mayors met with Democrats and Republicans in Congress including, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen, House Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster and others to voice their intention to be a part of federal policy discussions that will determine how America will become safe and strong again.
Mayors recognize the real-life impact that the proposed budget could have on their cities and metro areas.
Mayor Landrieu said, “Every day, Mayors find a way to protect our citizens, grow our economy and rebuild our infrastructure. Our partnership with the federal government is crucial, and we came to here to ensure that partnership continues and to get clarity on the how Congress and the Administration plans to deliver on the priorities they have outlined for America’s cities. If you look at current budget proposals, they don’t add up and we have yet to see much detail on how this work will be accomplished. As Washington talks about proposed spending increases, we know the only place cuts can come from are the things that we use to actually protect our cities and residents.”
“Our priorities, like funding for first responders and law enforcement, healthcare, and reliable roads and bridges, are things our residents expect us to provide.” Landrieu added, “We stand ready to work with Washington on things that will actually make America stronger and healthier.”
Mayors stressed that they will continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform, the retention of patient-protection provisions in the Affordable Care Act, as well as the preservation of municipal bonds and Community Development Block Grants for lower-income residents.
Mayors also met new Administration officials including, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Administrator Pruitt reassured mayors of his full support for superfund, brownfields and water infrastructure programs acknowledging, “The brownfields program has been a tremendous success.” See video of Pruitt’s remarks, which were open to press coverage, here.
While on the Hill, mayors also underscored their support for the tax exemption for municipal bonds, which are used to finance economic development and infrastructure in localities across the country.
“We’ve heard general affirmation from lawmakers that most of our nation’s infrastructure is delivered locally, so they seem be positive and understand how important this issue is to us. However, we are not resting on our laurels and it is our responsibility to communicate to everyone that eliminating the tax exemption for municipal bonds does not make any sense and is simply unconscionable,” said Mayor Benjamin, who has been the mayors’ champion on the issue.
As the meeting drew to a close, mayors from across the country today shared concerns about the Administration’s executive orders on travel bans and immigration, including their broad implementation that is impacting immigrants who have been in the U.S. their entire lives and have not committed crimes.
Mayor Cornett said, “While immigration has become a divisive issue across the country, it is not among the nation’s mayors. We recognize what immigrants have contributed to our country.”
“Last year, 95 percent of the jobs and more than 91 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product was generated in cities and metropolitan areas,” said USCM CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran. “As goes cities, so goes the nation. So the Administration and Congress have a vested interest in the future of America’s cities. Mayors are here this week, and will keep returning, to make sure they understand this.”