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U.S. House Passes 2015 Funding Measure Addressing Key Southwest Washington Priorities
VIDEO: Jaime secures pledge from U.S. House leadership to address urgent rural schools funding
Today the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2015 government funding bill that includes several Southwest Washington priorities championed by Jaime Herrera Beutler.
Today the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2015 government funding bill that includes several Southwest Washington priorities championed by Jaime Herrera Beutler. During passage of the bill, Jaime also secured assurances from U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that the Secure Rural Schools program that counties like Lewis, Skamania, and Cowlitz rely on for essential school and emergency services funding would be addressed as a top priority in 2015.
“Though the U.S. House has twice passed long term legislation I’ve championed to responsibly fund the Secure Rural Schools program, the Senate has failed to act on these bills and now we reach year’s end with our rural counties in a crisis situation. I will not cease in my efforts to restore this funding so that schools in Skamania County, Lewis County, and throughout rural Washington can keep operating, and I want to thank Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for his assurances to me on the U.S. House Floor today that Congress will make Secure Rural Schools a top priority when we reconvene in 2015.”
Established in 2000 as a lifeline to rural communities impacted by restrictive federal forest policies, the Secure Rural Schools program provides funding for schools and emergency services in lieu of timber operation receipts.
Saving taxpayer dollars: The bill continues the trend of saving taxpayer dollars, contributing to the $165 billion in savings through the Appropriations process since FY 2010. Specifically, the bill:
• Reduces the IRS budget to pre-2008 levels for a savings of $345 million;
• Rescinds $40 million in “performance bonuses” within the VA;
• Provides no new funding for the President’s health care law and makes $10 million in cuts to the controversial, unaccountable, unelected Independent Payment Advisory Board charged with cutting Medicare for seniors;
• Cuts the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget through staff reductions.
Accountability for executive overreach: While most of the federal government budgets overseen by the Appropriations Committee are funded in this bill through September 30, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security is only funded through February 27, 2015. This is an initial response to the President’s unilateral action on immigration – a move that, by his own admission, exceeds his constitutional authority. The short term funding window aims to give Congress time to confront the President’s action and more adequately address the nation’s broken immigration system.
Dredging and harbor maintenance: Jaime was able to secure $1.1 billion in harbor maintenance from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) with $42 million of the HMTF designated specifically for small ports like Ilwaco, Chinook and others along the Columbian River. Background: The HMTF was created with the purpose of waterway and port maintenance and is funded by a tax importers pay when using U.S. ports. Historically the fund takes in millions of dollars more each year than is expended. The bill also provides over $25 million for maintenance on the mouth of the Columbia River, including critical jetty rehabilitation.
Wildfire prevention: Wildfires have been increasing in severity over the past several years, damaging forests, threatening safety, and forcing the Forest Service to tap into its budget for other services and priorities. The bill includes $3.5 billion for wildfire suppression and $526 million for hazardous fuel management. The bill also calls for active forest management to prevent wildfires by reducing the fuel load and creating healthier forest and more robust species habitat.
Hanford clean-up: The bill restores $25 million not included in the President’s budget toward cleanup projects at the Hanford nuclear site.
Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT): The bill includes $422 million for payments to counties with large portions of land owned by the federal government. These funds help offset the loss of property tax income that pays for education, emergency services, county road maintenance, and other critical services in Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Pacific, and Skamania Counties.
Strengthens justice and law enforcement programs: The bill provides $42,250,000, an increase of $28,000,000 from FY14, to combat human trafficking—creating a special task force within the FBI to combat sex trafficking and broadening collaboration between across all agencies under Department of Justice.
The bill also increases funds for drug courts based on their proven effectiveness in reducing recidivism, substance abuse, and crime among non-violent offenders; strengthens mentally ill offender programs; increases funding to strengthen domestic violence programs; and increases funding to address the backlog in processing sexual assault kits nationwide.
Continued commitment to strong salmon recovery: Jaime was successful in maintaining the $65 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) that she fought for earlier this year. PCRSF provides critical funding for recovery and sustainability projects to improve wild salmon and steelhead habitats on the Columbia River and throughout the western U.S. Since the program’s inception, over 11,800 PCSRF projects have been implemented, providing fish passage and restoring habitat to strengthen salmon recovery efforts.
Community development grants protected: The President’s budget proposed additional requirements to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program that would make it harder for smaller communities to get CDBG grants. Jaime worked successfully to eliminate these requirements in the bill.
Forest Road Maintenance and Construction: The bill would direct the U.S. Forest Service to maintain forest roads in a way that preserves recreational opportunity and reduces costs. Currently, the Forest Service cannot adequately maintain 4,078 miles of road and 115 road bridges in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Many of these roads pose safety, environmental and public health threats that must be addressed. This bill would direct the Forest Service to close and stabilize the roads as opposed to permanently decommissioning them. Along with the recreational opportunities and taxpayer savings created by this provision, access for firefighting and future forest management would still be available.
Safety Regulations for Oil Trains: As a member of the Transportation Appropriations subcommittee, Jaime successfully fought to include important safety regulations for oil trains in that bill. It requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a final rule for new tank car design standards by January 15, 2015, requires rail carriers to develop comprehensive oil spill response plans and improves the safety of railroad grade crossings.
Aquatic Invasive Species: The nonnative quagga and zebra mussels have severely damaged freshwater ecosystems in the Northeast and Southwest U.S. This bill provides $4 million for containment, prevention, and enforcement to prevent the spread of these invasive species to uncontaminated bodies of water throughout Washington state.