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President’s Forum: Contentious Budget Debate Now Underway

Debt Ceiling Deadline is Early June

PHADA President David A. Northern, Sr.

The FY 24 budget process began in earnest late last month as House and Senate appropriations panels conducted hearings on HUD’s proposed spending plan. HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge testified at both sessions to promote and defend the Biden Administration’s budget. In related action, the House of Representatives voted by a slim margin to increase the government’s debt ceiling while the Treasury Department notified Congress that a final deal is needed by early June. The House legislation also includes large, proposed cuts in domestic spending over the next decade.



President Biden released his proposed budget in March. It includes $73.3 billion in funding for HUD, reflecting a $1.1 billion increase (1.6 percent) from the 2023 enacted level. A full report and chart is included in the April 5 edition of the Advocate.

This year’s congressional budget debate is shaping up to be the most difficult since the early 2010s when Congress and the Obama Administration argued over the country’s growing debt and economic path. The nation’s budget situation has grown worse over the last decade and the situation is further complicated by the fact that some entitlement programs (Medicare, Social Security) face insolvency in the not-too-distant future. Nonetheless, Congress must approve a budget before October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Even before that, though, lawmakers and the White House need to raise the government’s debt ceiling to assure the federal government can avoid a possible economic crisis.


Stark Differences in Congress

The government has already hit the statutory debt ceiling, but the U.S. Treasury has instituted “extraordinary measures” to keep the government running. The Treasury Department says it will exhaust those measures by early June. If an increase is not enacted by the “X date,” it could trigger a government shutdown and other serious economic consequences.

If you have not already done so, please contact your Representatives and two Senators and reinforce PHADA’s message. Action is needed now given that the Treasury Department has identified an early June deadline. The association’s budget recommendations can be found at: https://bit.ly/413uDqX.

The contrast between the two chambers could not be starker as evidenced by the recent congressional hearings and the House floor debate on the debt ceiling measure. The House Republican majority rejected the President’s budget, stating it would add trillions more in deficits and the existing $31 trillion debt, which they say have put the nation on an unsustainable fiscal path. Instead, House lawmakers propose that Congress revert to FY 22 domestic funding levels, which would impose an overall cut totaling $130 billion compared to current spending.

The Biden Administration and Democratic majority in the Senate expressed serious concerns the House budget could jeopardize the U.S. social safety net and harm the already vulnerable economy. They also argue the House should not hold the economy “for ransom” with the threat of a government shutdown or a default on the nation’s debt. Indeed, economists on both sides of the political spectrum have said a default would undermine the full faith and credit of the U.S. government and could prove cataclysmic for the country’s economy.


Secretary Fudge Raises Alarm on Capitol Hill

The House bill would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion through the end of next March. It would cap spending at 2022 levels and then allow for only 1 percent annual increases over the next decade.

During her testimony on both sides of the Capitol, Secretary Fudge outlined how hard the House budget would hit HUD programs and many low-income Americans assisted by those programs. She said it would be impossible to stave off “mass evictions,” adding the House cuts could result in the loss of voucher assistance for as many as 600,000 families. Congress “should not balance the budget on the packs of poor people,” the Secretary told appropriators.

Secretary Fudge added that public housing cuts envisioned in the House budget would create “unsafe living conditions” for hundreds of thousands of families. Similarly, she said the House bill could eliminate Section 8 project-based funding for almost 90,000 families, according to HUD’s estimates.

PHADA is quite concerned about the debt ceiling and FY 24 budget situation. The association’s members are asking Congress to adopt a clean debt ceiling increase as they have over the last decade. That action would allow government operations to continue, giving lawmakers time to debate the 2024 budget in addition to future spending. If you have not already done so, please contact your Representatives and two Senators and reinforce PHADA’s message. Action is needed now given that the Treasury Department has identified an early June deadline.

The association’s budget recommendations can be found here.


Bernadine Spears, Odessa Housing Authority.

Wishing the Best to Bernadine Spears

Bernadine Spears, the longtime Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the City of Odessa (TX), recently retired. Bernie served as the ED of the housing authority since December 1992, where she also worked as a housing counselor, accountant and assistant director since the mid-1970s.

Bernie is well known in Texas and in national circles through her long and productive involvement with PHADA. She served as our Vice President for Professional Development and Membership, and was one time chair of the Bollinger Scholarship Committee. She also headed the Texas Housing Association, was president of the United Way of Odessa, chairperson of the United Way Community Investment Division and a member of the NAHRO Board of Governors. Bernie is married and has two adult children and two granddaughters. She is an active member of The Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church and actively involved in community volunteerism.

PHADA wants to express its most sincere appreciation to Bernadine Spears for her commitment to the association and those we serve. We wish Bernie a healthy and very happy retirement! n

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