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Oregon Editors Say

Block grant changes hurt

Bush's plan to slash funding will hit small towns harder than urban areas

The Daily Astorian

Communities in Oregon and Washington face expensive replacement and improvement of essential facilities. They are basic infrastructure, such as sewer and water plants, streets, hospitals and homeless shelters.

Federal rules often drive cities and counties into budget-busting construction projects that are designed to enhance water quality or avoid environmental harm. This makes President Bush's plan to slash funding for Community Development Block Grants and other forms of economic assistance to local governments particularly ill-timed and poorly planned.

The president wants to consolidate 18 federal programs and eliminate the block grants starting next year. Wrapping bad news in a pretty public-relations package, the White House calls this consolidation plan Strengthening America's Communities.

But SAC would receive less than two-thirds as much funding as the programs it replaces.

While America's small towns and rural areas aren't always poor, they do tend to be relatively disadvantaged in comparison with many urban and suburban communities. Block grants play a unique role by benefiting the low- and moderate-income people who keep our nation's less-populated areas alive and well.

— Big-ticket items like major sewer plant upgrades would be out of the question for Clatsop and Pacific county towns without block grants. And without sufficient sewage processing capacity, our economy would swiftly spiral downward.

In short order, without block grants small U.S. communities would deteriorate. Unable to build or maintain infrastructure in compliance with federal regulations, new homes and businesses would not be permitted.

Every American deserves clean and abundant drinking water, unpolluted rivers, decent streets and opportunities for economic development. The president is hypocritical to claim to be for small towns while choking off their ability to succeed.