Senator Sessions with Local Chamber Delegation

What do a center of a downtown rennaissance, low income housing, and sidewalk and lighting improvements have in common? They're all local projects that have received special federal funding, but those grants are on the president's budget cutting board.

The Chamber of Commerce delegation in Washington, DC for their annual trip have staked their claim for continued funding.

After meeting with numerous legislative assistants throughout the morning, an afternoon hour brought a pair of senators to the delegates to discuss their key issues. That includes those grants.

The LaSalle Hotel in Downtown Bryan is considered by many city leaders to be the catalyst of the revitalization of the downtown area. Big business is coming to the area, as are residents, and the domino that started it all is the LaSalle if you ask most leaders.

It was Community Development Block Grant funding that, in part, brought that building back.

Both cities have used CDBG funds over the years on key fronts, including rehabilitation of substandard housing and neighborhoods.

"Our goal here is to encourage support for maintaining the same level of funding," said Mary Lynne Stratta, Bryan's city secretary.

President Bush's budgets over the years have repeatedly slashed CDBG, and the latest has it dropping again, down from a combined $2.2 million to the Twin Cities last year.

"With CDBG grants, I am there," said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) in her meeting with Chamber delegates. "I love CDBG grants, and the main thing to me is every community that uses them just loves them."

The House of Representatives has made its vote to reinstate CDBG funding, an action supported by Hutchison. But as her Texas counterpart John Cornyn pointed out to delegates, there's not an infinite amount of money to go around.

"It is competing priorities," the Texas republican said. "Somebody comes up here and says, 'we need money for this, this, this, this and this,' I say, 'tell me what your priorities really are.'"

"Both of them seem to be very aware of the importance of CDBG funding to communities as to comes to addressing those types of programs," Stratta said.

It's undoubtedly an issue local leaders will continue to fight for, and will certainly keep an eye on as it progresses through Congress.

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