WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich urged lawmakers in Congress to act on bipartisan funding bills that are critical to help sustain jobs and support economic growth across New Mexico. Their call came as debate in the Senate on a package of bills to fund agriculture; transportation, housing and urban development; and commerce, justice and science stalled due to a disagreement over unrelated amendments offered by Republicans.
Appropriations bills — which fund New Mexico's national labs, military base construction, water and transportation projects, agriculture and rural development and many other programs — are critical to the state's economy. Last year, Republicans and Democrats passed the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act, which prevented another government shutdown, rolled back damaging across-the-board sequestration cuts, and restored some certainty for federal workers and installations in New Mexico.
Today, Udall and Heinrich said it's critical that Congress continue on that bipartisan progress and get back to passing regular funding bills.
"As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I'm working every day to support New Mexico's military bases and our veterans; help our farmers and ranchers get through the drought; provide resources for roads, housing and infrastructure and small business development in rural and Native communities; and improve education and nutrition initiatives. We need to make smart, strategic decisions to reduce our national debt, but sequestration cuts, government shutdowns, and funding from crisis to crisis are no way to govern," Udall said. "New Mexico's labs, military bases, and federal installations employ hundreds of thousands of people, and they need stable funding to effectively and efficiently plan their budgets. So it's critical for Congress to keep working together and pass these vitally important funding bills."
"Following through with the appropriations process will help give families and businesses the certainty they need to spend and invest in ways that will help boost the economy and create jobs," Heinrich said. "We will also help strengthen education, housing, transportation, and rural development programs across the state. From our agriculture industry to our military bases, from our national labs to veterans' services, these investments will have a positive impact on the lives of New Mexicans. I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure these critical funding bills get passed."
The Appropriations Committee has already approved important funding for New Mexico in the bills. Highlights include:
Energy and Water
B61 Life Extension Project (LEP): 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.
WIPP: The Senate bill provides $323 million for WIPP, including the administration's original funding request of $220.5 million. The additional $102 million is designated for cleanup from the radiological accident and equals the estimate DOE has provided for FY15 recovery activities at WIPP.
Los Alamos CMRR: The bill provides $3.8 million in design funding for a new modular approach for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility and $35.7 million for LANL's new radiological lab (RLOUB). These facilities are needed to replace the aging CMR facility, which no longer meets modern building and scientific standards and is slated for closure in 2019.
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.
Construction of a Squadron Operations Facility for a Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon AFB: $23.3 million. Udall supported funding for an Operations Facility for a Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, which would require appropriately sized and configured facilities to conduct the extensive training specials tactics personnel undergo. The facility would include industrial and warehouse-type spaces, team rooms, operators' cages, a parachute drying tower, climbing wall, armory, and administrative and medical spaces.
Defense Access Roads: Udall fought to include a provision in the military construction funding bill that would help to alleviate traffic and road problems caused by substantial population growth due to defense activities. The bill encourages the Secretary of Defense to include mission growth transportation projects as eligible infrastructure projects for Federal defense funding, and to prioritize the construction of Defense Access Roads to relieve traffic congestion associated with mission growth and base realignment activities.
Air Force Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative Installations: $3.1 billion nationwide for installations, including multiple military construction projects in New Mexico.
Rural Medical Professionals Serving Veterans' Communities: Udall fought to include a provision in the bill that directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase partnerships between university medical centers that serve rural and highly rural areas. The provision urges the development of courses and programs to better train health care professionals to meet the needs of veterans living in rural and highly rural areas, and also encourages the creation and expansion of continuing education programs for rural practitioners.
Assessment of Rural Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs): Udall worked to reiterate a measure in the bill that he included as an amendment in last year's appropriations bill to direct the VA to conduct a full assessment of all CBOCs in rural and highly rural areas, to ensure the clinics meet all applicable health and legal standards. This year's bill recognizes the assessment is underway, and notes that the committee anticipates its results.
Agriculture and Nutrition Programs
Rural Water and Wastewater loans and grants: $1.7 billion in water and waste-prevention loans and grants, restoring almost $150 million in cuts to grants from the administration’s request. These funds are important to New Mexico because they allow small, remote rural communities to obtain the clean water and sanitary waste disposal systems they need.
Circuit Rider Program: $15.9 million. This program provides funding for technical assistance for the operation of rural water systems. Through contracting, the Rural Utilities Service assists rural water systems with day-to-day operational, financial, and management problems.
Native American Communities and Colonias: $66.5 million, which was double the funding requested by the administration. These funds help Native American communities and border communities pay for all or part of the cost of water and waste disposal facilities.
-Commodity Supplemental Food Program: $208 million nationwide for this program to help low-income new mothers, children and seniors improve their health by supplementing their diets with nutritious foods.
-Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): $6.6 billion nationwide to provide grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and nonbreastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk.
-Farmer's Market Nutrition Program: $16.5 million nationwide for this program to provide fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants
-School Meal Equipment Grants: $25 million nationwide to help schools purchase equipment to serve healthier meals emphasizing fruits and vegetables and food safety.
Disaster Funding: The bill provides $85 million in disaster relief spending for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program. These funds will help communities across the country respond to natural disasters. EWP is an emergency recovery program, designed to remove hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, windstorms and other natural disasters.
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development
Community Development Block Grants: $3.02 billion nationwide. These funds help communities in New Mexico and across the nation support housing and neighborhood redevelopment, improve housing conditions in colonias, and tackle other significant problems.
Indian Community Development Block Grant: $70 million nationwide. These funds provide critical support to tribal governments and tribally designated housing entities to improve housing conditions and economic opportunities for Native Americans. The bill also directs HUD to coordinate with other federal agencies to streamline and coordinate environmental reviews for housing and related infrastructure development, as recommended by the Government Accountability Office.
HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME): $950 million nationwide. This program helps to support the creation of affordable housing.
Indian Housing Block Grant: $675 million nationwide. This program provides a range of affordable housing activities on Indian reservations and Indian areas and helps communities improve conditions to fight crime and improve safety.
Commerce, Justice, and Science
Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP): $40 million nationwide. New Mexico MEP centers across the state help small manufacturing businesses create and maintain jobs by providing a variety of services, from innovation strategies to process improvement to green manufacturing.
-Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Grant Program: $181 million nationwide. This program helps communities and tribal governments put more police officers on the street to prevent crime and improve neighborhood safety.
-Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG): $376 million nationwide. This program helps N.M. law enforcement departments purchase equipment, provide police-based services to support victim assistance and juvenile delinquency prevention, and combat drug, gang, or other criminal activity.
-Task Force to Combat Heroin Abuse: $10 million. The bill directs the Department of Justice to convene an anti-heroin task force to address heroin abuse through law enforcement, education, treatment, and prescription drug abuse prevention.
STEM Education at Tribal Colleges and Universities: $13.5 million nationwide to improve the quality of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education at tribal colleges and universities.
Federal Information Technology (IT) Reform: Requirements in the bill align with Udall's federal IT reform efforts to improve oversight of federal IT spending, by requiring each agency notify the Committee of cost overruns greater than 10 percent on major projects.