U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05), who also serves as Chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, applauds House passage of the full-year Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2016, the federal spending package known as the Omnibus. It passed with a vote of 316 to 113.
The bill provides $1.149 trillion for critical government programs and services, the same level agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which was enacted last month.
"The Omnibus bill provides funding boosts for Kentucky programs to spur economic development, combat drug abuse, support the mission of SOAR, protect the sanctity of life, and keep Kentuckians safe," said Chairman Rogers. "It also reins in the Obama Administration's job-killing regulations and supports an all-of-the-above, pro-coal energy strategy to help put our coal miners back to work. Finally, the bill provides much-needed funding for our veterans programs and ensures our active military men and women have everything needed to lead the way on national defense and responses to terrorism threats."
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration and the President is expected to sign it into law over the weekend.
Highlights are listed below:
Economic and Rural Development
Kentucky will specifically benefit from the following economic and rural development projects, including funding for programs proposed in the President's POWER Plus Plan to help revitalize our coal communities (national funding levels are listed):
Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) – provides historic funding levels, $146 million, for ARC to promote economic growth in distressed counties in the region, including $10 million to increase access to broadband in Appalachian communities.
Economic Development Administration – $222 million is available for Economic Development Assistance Programs, including $15 million to enhance regional business development in areas negatively impacted by the downturn in the coal industry.
Reclamation of Abandoned Mine Lands – provides $241 million for the reclamation of abandoned mine lands in coal communities nationwide. This funding includes a new pilot program aimed at stimulating economic development specifically in Appalachia, where communities are struggling due to the recent downturn in the coal industry. Coal communities with abandoned mine lands will have access to grants that will enable them to reclaim these lands, create new job opportunities and stimulate the local economy. This program is funded at $90 million and will be piloted in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Job Training – supports the Employment and Training Administration at $10.6 billion. This program has supported the ongoing efforts of Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) through grants for job training initiatives to help support families impacted by layoffs in the coal industry.
National Parks – provides $2.9 billion for the National Park Service, $94 million of which will be used to reduce maintenance backlogs and for the celebration of the National Park Centennial. These funds will support ongoing activities at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.
USDA Rural Development – includes $2.8 billion to assist rural communities in creating affordable housing options and critical infrastructure investments, including utility and power systems.
Head Start – promotes school readiness, an important part of preparing children for a successful future in the region, with $9.168 billion for Head Start programs.
Community Service Block Grants, Rural Community Facilities, and Community Economic Development Grants – provides $751 million that will allow Community Action Agencies to continue their efforts to support low-income individuals increase self-sufficiency.
Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection Program – provides $157 million to help communities recover from emergencies created by natural disasters. Kentucky communities utilize these funds to respond to imminent hazards to life and property created by floods, fires, and windstorms.
Support for rural housing programs – $950 million is included for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program to help state and local governments provide affordable housing options to low-income people. An additional $900 million is included for USDA Section 502 Direct Loans and $27.5 million for Self-Help Housing programs.
Community Development Financial Institutions – provides $233.5 million to promote economic revitalization in low-income communities. Kentucky-based organizations like Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and Community Ventures use these funds to help individuals buy homes, start and grow small businesses, as well as fund projects that improve our local communities.
HubZone – includes $3 million to help small businesses in rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes – fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for Fiscal Year 2016 at $452 million. The PILT program allows local communities to compensate for losses in their tax base due to the presence of Federal lands within their boundaries. Funding from this program will benefit almost every county in the 5th Congressional District.
Clean Water and Drinking Water – provides $2.3 billion to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which support local drinking water and sewer construction projects. The bill also provides funding to improve water quality and ensure the safety of drinking water in rural communities through technical assistance grants.
Reins in the Obama Administration’s Regulatory Overreach
to Advance an All of the Above, Pro-Coal Energy Policy
Since 2009, Eastern Kentucky has lost more than 9,000 coal mining jobs, plus countless more coal-reliant jobs in the region. In an effort to put coal miners back to work and reduce overburdensome and ineffective regulations, the following measures were included in the federal funding bill:
Reining in the EPA –
Cuts EPA funding to pre-fiscal year 2010 levels
Reduces the EPA staff to its lowest levels since 1989
Rejects the President’s proposal to spend $138 million on new or expanded EPA regulatory programs
Prohibits the EPA from issuing regulations on lead content in ammunition or fishing tackle
Enhances congressional oversight of EPA’s review of mining permits, which often languish when left in the agency’s hands
Definition of “Fill Material” and Clean Water Act Permits – prohibits the US Army Corps of Engineers from modifying the definition of “fill material.” Such modifications could harm critical US industries, including the coal industry in Appalachia. The bill also protects farmers by restricting the application of the Clean Water Act in certain agricultural areas, including farm ponds and irrigation ditches.
Stream Protection Rule – requires the Department of the Interior to engage with the States in developing the Stream Protection Rule, which will have a direct impact on the mining industry. The Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE) has mismanaged this rulemaking from the beginning, wasting taxpayer dollars and withholding information from State partners. This provision will require OSMRE to produce all data and documents relevant to the rulemaking and engage in a transparent process with the States.
Keeping foreign coal markets open – the bill prohibits a component of President Obama’s damaging Climate Change Policy that would stop the United States from investing in coal-fired power plants in developing countries.
Mine Safety – provides oversight of the Mine Safety and Health Administration in order to ensure that agency resources are being utilized efficiently and effectively throughout the region to protect our miners hard at work in the coal fields.
Fossil Energy Research – advances an “all of the above” energy strategy by making substantial investments in fossil energy research. Department of Energy (DOE) Fossil Energy Research programs are funded at $632 million, which is $61 million above fiscal year 2015 funding levels. The DOE Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) and Power Systems Program is funded at $430 million, with $53 million set aside for the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), which focuses on coal, natural gas and oil technologies.
Combats Drug Abuse
Great strides have been made in combatting drug abuse in Southern and Eastern Kentucky and across the Commonwealth, however, still too many lives are lost each year due to accidental drug overdoses. In fact, one person dies every 15 minutes from a drug overdose in America. The following measures are included in the bill to help save lives and prevent generational drug abuse trends.
Drug Enforcement – the bill provides $250 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program to assist federal, state, and local authorities clean up trafficking hot-spots, which will enable the Appalachian HIDTA to continue its work in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. The legislation also includes $2.5 billion for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a $52 million increase over 2015. $372 million is specifically allocated to combat the diversion of prescription drugs. In addition, $192.9 million is included for the National Guard’s Counterdrug program, which supports ongoing marijuana eradication efforts in the Daniel Boone National Forrest, and $11 million is provided to support state and local law enforcement efforts to clean up methamphetamine labs.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) – the legislation provides $13 million to implement and enhance PDMPs, requiring the Department of Justice to increase interstate connectivity amount PDMPs and to explore opportunities to increase utilization by authorized users.
Prevent and Treatment – the legislation provides $1.77 billion for states to plan, implement, and evaluate their efforts to prevent and treat substance abuse, and includes $1.25 million to help states implement model drug legislation. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is provided with $70 million to continue its Opioid Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention program. Kentucky has already been awarded $940,000 per year for four years under this program. The bill allocates $95 million to the Drug Free Communities Program, which provides funding to community-based groups seeking to prevent youth substance abuse. Finally, the legislation also encourages HHS to facilitate training of healthcare professionals and paramedics and to increase access to emergency devices, like Naloxone.
Drug Courts – provides historic funding levels for drug courts, including $104 million to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help non-violent offenders struggling with addiction. An additional $6 million is included for Veterans Treatment Courts to help our men and women in uniform who are struggling with addiction, and $2 million will be available to train drug court judges around the country.
National Defense Priorities and Taking Care of our Veterans
The Veterans Administration has greatly reduced the backlog of veterans benefit claims and this bill will help continue that work, while expanding upon other services. It also ensures that our active U.S. Forces are prepared to combat the threat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations, both overseas and on U.S. soil.
Responding to Worldwide Threats – provides necessary funding to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), bolster our intelligence capabilities abroad, and support our allies in Europe who are being threatened by Russian aggression.
Readiness and Training – addresses current shortfalls in military readiness, training, and depot maintenance in order to ensure that our servicemen and women are fully prepared to respond to threats around the world.
Health Care & Research – provides $32.3 billion for the Defense Health Program to provide healthcare for our active and retired service members and their families. The bill funds crucial research on traumatic brain injury, cancer, and suicide prevention programs. The measure also provides $50 billion to the VA for medical services for our nation’s veterans, including funding for Hepatitis C treatment, mental health care, and caregivers of injured veterans.
Veteran Homelessness – provides $6.7 billion for medical care, support services, housing and job training and placement programs for our homeless veterans.
Rural Health – provides $270 million in rural health initiatives in order to provide care to veterans who do not have immediate access to a veterans medical center or community-based outpatient clinic.
Disability Compensation Backlog – includes $2.7 billion for the VA to continue reducing the disability compensation claims backlog.