Appropriations bill funds PILT, lab programs including B61, N.M. military bases, WIPP recovery, technology transfer, water projects and other priorities
U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, welcomed the release of a so-called “omnibus” appropriations bill, which includes critical funding for New Mexico and keeps the government running through September 2015, the end of the fiscal year.
The bill funds many New Mexico priorities that Udall has fought for, such as the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which helps pay for local services New Mexicans rely on, including law enforcement, schools, roads and other needs. The bill also provides additional funding to continue cleanup from the radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), as well as continued work on the B61 Life Extension Project (LEP) at Los Alamos and Sandia national labs; construction and projects at New Mexico’s Air Force bases; technology transfer to help stimulate job growth; rural N.M. water projects; and public lands programs.
Because a temporary spending measure expires on Thursday, the omnibus bill must be approved by the House and Senate this week or funding must be temporarily extended.
While the bill is vital for New Mexico communities, which depend on funding for PILT, the labs and bases, public lands agencies and many other programs, the omnibus also includes provisions tacked on at the last minute, which chip away at campaign finance reforms and Wall Street reforms intended to prevent a financial collapse like that in 2008.
Udall said he is continuing to review the last-minute additions to the bill before deciding how to vote, and he decried the so-called “riders” as well as threats by lawmakers to shut down the government over disagreements with the president’s executive action on immigration.
“This bill includes funding for programs that I fought for – to sustain jobs at New Mexico’s labs and bases, to continue cleanup from the radiation release at WIPP, and ensure New Mexico counties have funding they count on for schools, public safety, roads and so many other daily services,” Udall said. “I’m extremely disappointed that Congress has become so broken that it would hold vital regular funding hostage in order to pass gimmicks that unleash special interest spending to influence political campaigns and that weaken laws protecting our financial system.”
“One of Congress’s most important duties is to direct federal government spending, but it has now been several years since we passed regular spending bills,” Udall continued. “There was a time when an omnibus appropriations bill would have been a sign of a major breakdown. I will continue to do everything I can as a member of the Appropriations Committee to get Congress back to working for New Mexico and the American people. I encourage my colleagues to work together – our economic strength and national security depend on it.”
New Mexico funding in the bill includes:
PILT – with $70 million included in a defense bill, which is also before Congress this week, and $372 million in the omnibus, the PILT program is funded at $442 million. The total will be divided according to a formula determined by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Last year, New Mexico counties received $37 million.
WIPP, LOS ALAMOS AND SANDIA NATIONAL LABS
-WIPP: The bill provides $320 million for WIPP, including the administration’s original funding request of $220 million. The additional $100 million is designated for cleanup from the radiological accident and equals the estimate DOE has provided for FY15 recovery activities at WIPP.
-B61 Life Extension Project: $643 million. Both Los Alamos and Sandia national labs are instrumental in carrying out this program, which maintains our nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile while allowing for the eventual elimination of the nation’s largest warhead, the B83. The bill fully funds the B61 LEP for FY15 and supports recent job increases at Sandia. The funding is a direct result of Udall’s successful fight against an attempt in FY14 to cut the program.
-LANL Cleanup: $185 million
-LANL Recapitalization: $22.7 million for 10 projects plus $23 million for TA-55 Reinvestment Project Phase II and III LANL
-Sandia National Laboratory Recapitalization: $30.8 million for seven projects.
-Technology Transfer: $4.8 million for technology transfer at the Department of Defense, $2.1 million above the president’s request, plus an additional $10 million for a regionally focused technology transfer innovation pilot program, requested by Senator Udall. The pilot will facilitate public-private ventures between the Department of Defense research and development centers and regionally focused technology incubators.
-Cannon Air Force Base: $23.3 million for a Squadron Operations Facility
-Kirtland Air Force Base High Energy Laser: $14 million for high energy laser research initiatives, $1.0 million more than the president’s request for work that will partially be done at KAFB.
-Kirtland Air Force Base Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office:$20 million. The ORS Office is responsible for responsive space capabilities that enable rapid deployment of military resources all around the world. Senator Udall secured this funding, not included in the president’s request, to complete the development, launch, and operations of the ORS mission and to support the integration of ORS approaches across the space capabilities in the Air Force.
-DOD Starbase Funding: $25 million increase in funding for STARBASE, a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education program for fifth graders. Senator Udall succeeded in pushing for this civilian program that provides 25 hours of engaging STEM instruction. The technology-rich military environment allows students to experience first-hand “real-world” application of STEM skills. The DoD STARBASE Program creates an unequaled bridge between the U.S. Military and STEM education with local school students that is achieved through strong civilian/military leadership involvement, state of the art curriculum and technology, nation-wide program standardization, a complete understanding of military culture, and assured access to military installations.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)
The legislation includes a total of $159.1 billion, $1.8 billion above the enacted fiscal year 2014 level.
-VA Medical Services: $45.2 billion – providing care and treatment for approximately 6.7 million veterans. This includes: $7.2 billion in mental health care services; $133 million in suicide prevention activities; $229 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $7.4 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives.
-Rural health: $209 million to help address new costs related to the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 including hiring medical staff, expanding facility capacity, and allowing rural veterans to seek care outside the VA system.
-Oversight: To help address issues related to the “wait list” scandal at the VA in New Mexico and elsewhere, Senator Udall pushed for additional funding for the VA Office of Inspector General. The agreement increases funding by $5 million over the fiscal year 2014 level to provide the resources necessary to continue the Office’s audits of hospital appointment scheduling and lapses in patient care. The legislation also includes language directing the VA Office of the Medical Inspector to report on problems or deficiencies in the implementation of its recommendations, and on any violations of law by VA employees.
-Advance Funding for Veterans Medical Programs: $58.7 billion in advance fiscal year 2016 funding for the VA. This funding will provide for medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities, and ensure that our veterans have continued, full access to their medical care.
-Navajo-Gallup Project: The bill provides $81 million for the construction of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project and the historic 2010 Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement Agreement. The project will supply water to the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation, the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the city of Gallup, serving the future water needs of approximately 250,000 people.
Other Water Settlements
-Aamodt: $3 million
-Taos Pueblo: $4 million
-Middle Rio Grande: The bill includes a provision encouraging development and implementation of the Water Acquisition Program along the Middle Rio Grande and San Juan Chama Projects and the Physical Habitat Restoration and Management efforts along the San Acacia Reach consistent with fiscal year 2014 activities.
BUREAU OF RECLAMATION
-Westwide Drought Response: $50 million for drought response in Western states.
-Reauthorization of Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1991 (a provision from Udall’s drought bill, the New Mexico Drought Relief Act of 2014)
-Secure Water Act: The bill increases the authorization from $200 million to $300 million (also a provision from Udall’s New Mexico Drought Relief Act of 2014).
-Rural Water Projects: $31 million in discretionary funds for rural water projects, which may be used to fund projects like the Eastern New Mexico-Ute Pipeline.
The bill also includes specific funding for the following Bureau of Reclamation projects in New Mexico:
-Carlsbad Project: $4,139,000
-Middle Rio Grande Project: $22,735,000
-Rio Grande Project: $5,406,000
-Rio Grande Pueblos Project: $650,000
-Tucumcari Project: $34,000
-Navajo Indian Irrigation Project: $3.4 million
ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
-Tribal Partnership Program: $2.5M
-Espanola Valley, Rio Grande & Tributaries: $300,000
-Rio Grande Basin, NM, CO, and TX (Sec. 729): $300,000
-Middle Rio Grande Flood Protection, Bernalillo to Belen: $276,000
-Abiquiu Dam: $2,794,000
-Cochiti Lake: $3,587,000
-Conchas Lake: $2,794,000
-Galisteo Dam: $1,150,000
-Inspection of Completed Environmental Projects: $30,000
-Inspection of Completed Works: $654,000
-Jemez Canyon Dam: $1,392,000
-Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program: $2,492,000
-Santa Rosa Dam and Lake: $1,594,000
-Scheduling Reservoir Operations: $330,000
-Two Rivers Dam: $797,000
-Upper Rio Grande Water Operations Model Study: $1,289,000
WILDFIRE SUPPRESSION AND PREVENTION
-Hazardous fuels reduction activities: $526 million total nationwide
-Wildfire suppression: $1.394 billion total for the Forest Service and DOI to respond to forest fires.
-Aircraft acquisition to enhance firefighting capacity, effectiveness: $65 million
-Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Fund: $40 million for ecological restoration treatments of forests. This helps prevent fires and make healthy watersheds. Two projects in New Mexico are ongoing (Zuni Mountain and Jemez Mountains)
FINANCIAL SERVICES AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT
-Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB): $7.5 million for the PCLOB to help ensure that federal laws and policies related to terrorism appropriately consider privacy and civil liberties. These resources, $4.4 million more than the fiscal year 2014 enacted level, will enable the PCLOB to pursue its mission without delay.
-10 temporary federal judgeships extended for one year, including one in New Mexico.
-Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP): $375 million, $8 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This includes $245 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program and $93.5 million for the Drug-Free Communities program.
-State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement: $2.3 billion to support state and local law enforcement with the tools they need to fight violent crime and gangs. This amount is $55 million more than the fiscal year 2014 level and includes funding for key grant programs, such as $376 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, $180 million for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grants, $430 million for Violence Against Women Act programs and $252 million for juvenile justice and mentoring grants.
-Heroin Crisis: $7 million to fund a new program within the COPS Office for anti-heroin task forces. Competitive grants will be awarded for drug enforcement, including investigations and activities related to the distribution of heroin or unlawful diversion and distribution of prescription opioids. The agreement calls on the DOJ to take the lead in convening experts in the law enforcement, medical, public health and educational fields to develop a comprehensive government-wide solution for this crisis. The bill also provides funding for OJP grant programs available to state and local governments for residential drug treatment ($10 million), prescription drug monitoring ($11 million), and drug courts ($41 million).
-Funding for 35 new Immigration Judge Teams allowing Executive Office for Immigration Review to adjudicate up to 39,000 more cases annually.