Senators express concern over budget uncertainty, commend FY 17 omnibus’ long-term extension of miners’ health benefits, full federal commitment for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Metro
May 01 2017
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded the inclusion of key Virginia priorities in the 2017 fiscal year spending bill, which Congress will vote on this week, but highlighted that the Trump Administration created needless strain on industries across the country after asking Republican leadership to delay a deal in December. The omnibus bill funds the government through the end of the 2017 fiscal year on September 30.
“This bipartisan spending agreement will keep the government funded through the end of September, and I am glad that we have been able to maintain key priorities important to Virginians,” Sen. Warner said. “We finally succeeded in securing permanent funding for healthcare for retired miners and their beneficiaries. We still have to fix the miners’ pension issue, but I am pleased we won support for keeping the promises President Truman made to the miners back in 1946.”
Added Sen. Warner, “The spending agreement keeps federal commitments to help fund the Metro system, which is so important to the capital region. In addition, it rejects the Trump Administration’s effort to eliminate all federal funding for important regional priorities like the Appalachian Regional Commission and the federal commitment to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup. While those of us who support these important regional priorities can breathe easier for now, we must remain vigilant to ensure that future funding efforts do not demonstrate the same willingness to abandon federal support for these important programs that President Trump’s plan does.”
“This spending bill is a good compromise to fix an unfortunate situation we never would have been in if the incoming Trump Administration hadn’t stepped in and asked Republican leadership to halt a very similar deal in December,” Kaine said. “Budget uncertainty stunts our economy and leaves industries without the certainty needed to grow and sustain their workforce, as we’ve seen with shipbuilders in Hampton Roads. I’m proud that we were able to protect funding for women’s health services and stop President Trump’s plan to force American taxpayers to pick up the tab for a wall that won't make us safer. While the additional funding for military readiness is desperately needed and supports some of Virginia’s defense industries, the damage inflicted by the unnecessary delay of a full-year appropriation undercuts the benefits of these additional dollars that we should have secured last year. However, I’m very proud of the work that we did to protect retired miners and bring them some certainty by securing funding for the health care benefits they earned.”
The following list includes many of the provisions Sens. Warner and Kaine advocated for on behalf of Virginia that were included in the appropriations bill:
Miners. On March 1, 2017, 22,600 miners received letters letting them know that their healthcare benefits would be terminated at the end of April. The omnibus requires that the federal government and coal operators honor their obligation of healthcare benefits to retired miners and their families who are facing uncertainty as a result of the financial crisis and corporate bankruptcies. Sens. Warner and Kaine are co-sponsors of the Miners Protection Act, a long-term solution for retired miners’ healthcare and pensions.
Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The bill includes $152 million for the ARC.
FBI Headquarters. The legislation includes $323 million, and transfer authority for another $315 million, to construct a new, consolidated FBI headquarters. A site in Springfield, Va. is one of three locations under final consideration for the new headquarters.
Virginia Seafood. The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. Employers are required to declare that there were not enough U.S. workers who were available to do the temporary work. The number of H-2B visas is typically capped at 66,000 per year by the Department of Homeland Security. The bill gives the Secretary of Homeland Security, upon consultation with the Secretary of Labor, the authority to increase the number of H-2B visas. The increase cannot exceed the total number of returning worker exemption participants for any year in which the exemption program has existed. The H-2B temporary non-agricultural visa program is vital to helping small and seasonal employers across the Commonwealth sustain their businesses, and supports Virginia jobs dependent upon seasonal business industries. Sen. Warner recently partnered with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) on a bipartisan effort outlining concerns with the H-2B visa cap.
National Park Service (NPS). The FY17 omnibus includes $2.93 billion for the Park Service, an increase of $61 million above the FY 16 level. Included in this is $56 million in new funding to address the Park Service’s estimated $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Sens. Warner and Kaine are sponsors of bipartisan legislation to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at NPS. There are 34 NPS operated parks, trails, battlefields and historic sites in Virginia, which ranks 5th in the list of the states with the largest backlog, with $800 million in deferred and overdue maintenance to NPS assets located in Virginia.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The bill provides $8.06 billion for the EPA, an increase of $39 million to the level provided by the FY 2017 Continuing Resolution. The amount protects the agency from operating cuts of $200 million proposed in the House bill and $112 million proposed in the Senate bill.
Chesapeake Bay Program. The Chesapeake Bay Program received full funding of $73 million.
National Institutes of Health (NIH). The bill increases funding for NIH by $2 billion over FY 16, bringing the total funding to $34.1 billion. This includes additional funding for Alzheimer’s research, and full funding of $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Act, which authorizes pediatric research within the Common Fund at the NIH. The authorizing legislation was named for 10 year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill includes $7.47 billion for NSF, $9 million more than the FY 16 level. Funding includes $6.03 billion for NSF’s research and development facilities, $880 million for NSF’s education and training programs, and $209 million for scientific infrastructure. NSF, an independent agency that funds a wide array of science and engineering research, is headquartered in Northern Virginia.
NASA Science. The bill provides $19.7 billion in base funding for NASA, which is $368 million more than the FY 16 level. NASA Science is funded at $5.8 billion, which is $175.5 million more than the FY 16 level. It also includes $660 million – a $20 million increase over FY 16 levels – for the NASA Aeronautics program. Much of NASA’s aeronautics work is done at NASA Langley in Hampton, Virginia.
Metro. The bill provides the full federal funding of $150 million for Metro, part of a 10-year, $1.5 billion federal commitment to assist in making capital improvements to the Washington Metro system.
Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). CDBG helps communities develop projects that meet unique housing, infrastructure, and economic development needs and supports job creation. The bill provides $3 billion for CDBG, equal to the fiscal year 2016 level. Sens. Warner and Kaine are both strong supporters of the CDBG program.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT). The agreement includes $465 million for payments to counties through the PILT program, in order to help local governments offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries.
Opioid Crisis. This bill provides $160.5 million to help States and local communities in the fight against heroin and illegal use of opioids, which is $35.5 million more than the FY 16 level. Funding includes $10 million in grant funding for State-wide anti-heroin task forces as part of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. As communities cannot just enforce their way out of this epidemic, the bill supports comprehensive prevention and treatment programs to discourage experimentation with heroin or abusing prescription medication in the first place and to help those who are addicted to find affordable and accessible options to aid recovery. This includes fully funding the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 at the authorized level of $103 million to fund critical programs like drug courts, residential drug treatment and prescription drug monitoring.
Police-Community Relations. This bill provides a total of $110 million to strengthen the relationship between the police and communities they serve. A total of $65 million has been provided for the Community Trust Initiative within State and Local Law Enforcement assistance for the purchase of body cameras, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, and the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program. Funding is also provided for the National Crime Statistics Exchange (NCS-X) to improve the data collection and reporting into the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) by state and local law enforcement agencies. A new initiative to provide training for police officers to better respond to citizens with mental illness is funded at $2.5 million within the Byrne-JAG program. Within the COPS Office, a total of $15 million is provided for the Collaborative Reform Model and Community Policing Development.
Shipbuilding and Ship Repair. The bill includes $21.2 billion in shipbuilding. It provides funding for aircraft carrier refueling and complex overhaul; funding in shipbuilding and RDT&E for the Ford-Class carrier; full funding for 2 Virginia-class submarines and a Virginia payload module; and funding in shipbuilding (advanced procurement) and RDT&E for the Columbia-class submarine (Ohio-class replacement). It also includes increases of $85 million in advance procurement to continue efficient production of the Virginia-class submarine and $20 million in aircraft carrier design for affordability. The bill includes $889 million for maintenance of aircraft, ships, and combat vehicles. The ship maintenance funding will fill critical shortfalls and reduce the backlog of maintenance. It will also support increased ship operations.
Defense Operations. While the omnibus includes $1.6 billion for additional counter-ISIL U.S. military operations, and $626 million for additional train and equip funding for counter-ISIL coalition partners, it withholds $2.5 billion of the bill’s $76.6 billion in war-related funding until the President submits a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy for the defeat of ISIL to Congress.