Udall, Heinrich Secure Strong Funding for NM Priorities in Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Bill invests in NM jobs, families, infrastructure & environment

WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined the full Senate in voting 65-32 for an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government. The U.S. House of Representatives has approved the bill, and the president signed it into law last week.

While the bill fails to provide a solution for DREAMers or include significant provisions to prevent gun violence, the bill invests in essential New Mexico priorities that Udall and Heinrich championed. It includes a breakthrough for wildfire funding, and invests in New Mexico's national labs, military bases and federal installations, child care, education, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, Tribal health and infrastructure, and many other critical programs for New Mexicans.

Udall, the lead Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing funding for the Interior Department, the EPA, and arts and humanities programs, said: “The omnibus appropriations bill includes strong support for New Mexico’s families, communities, public lands, national laboratories and military bases, and it staves off the worst of President Trump’s xenophobic, anti-immigrant agenda and congressional Republicans' partisan policy riders. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that writes the budget for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, I worked hard to include full funding for PILT, which will ensure counties get every dollar they are owed, full funding for Secure Rural Schools, support for Indian Country, and an increase in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities — all of which contribute to New Mexico's quality of life and help drive our economy. I also worked very hard to deliver a long term funding fix that finally ends the cycle of fire borrowing so the Forest Service can afford to fight fires and still do critical work to prevent them. The bill also includes critical new funding for New Mexico to help secure our electoral process and defend our democracy. And, it will fund the largest increase for child care assistance ever - helping ensure that an additional 1,780 children in New Mexico have safe care while their parents are at work. The bill is far from perfect, but New Mexico families will be better off as a result of this bipartisan agreement to keep our priorities funded and invest in our future."

Heinrich said: "This funding bill makes robust investments in our economy and will create and protect jobs in New Mexico at a time when we truly need them. Because of the services we provide to the nation, New Mexico’s economy relies heavily on federal investments, and this package provides some long-term stability. New Mexico’s national laboratories, military bases, and WIPP will all receive critical federal investments in this bipartisan deal. Counties will receive full PILT funding and we succeeded at reinstating the Secure Rural Schools program to provide consistent and reliable funding for rural counties and schools. The bill also includes measures to improve access to public lands and grow New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy, including permanently reauthorizing the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act and increasing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Additionally, we made a major improvement to the way we fund wildfires. This plan pays for catastrophic fires in the same way we pay for other natural disasters, while protecting funds for stewardship contracts, watershed restoration projects, and other critical forest health programs. We no longer have to choose between fighting fires and preventing them -- we must do both, and this budget plan makes that possible. We were successful at excluding outlandish funding for President Trump's border wall, which is a symbol of everything that’s wrong with this administration. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect Dreamers whose lives the President has put in jeopardy when he canceled the DACA program, and actually invest in our communities to make our country stronger. This package also includes robust investments in election security improvements, infrastructure, tribal housing, early childhood education and increases the Pell Grant award to make higher education more affordable. In addition, the bipartisan deal provides funds to combat the opioid epidemic and clarifies language to allow the CDC to research gun violence. While this process has been far from perfect, Congress must continue to work together in order to get things done for the American people and New Mexico."

The Omnibus agreement enacts investments that Udall and Heinrich have fought for, including funding to:

-Combat the opioid abuse epidemic — The bill adds a total of $3.3 billion in increased funding for opioids and mental health crises for Fiscal Year 2018, including an increase of $2.8 billion in treatment, prevention and research for programs within the Department of Health and Human Services.

-Rebuild crumbling veterans’ hospitals -- The bill includes an additional $2 billion specifically so the Department of Veterans Affairs can address its hospital maintenance and construction backlogs.

-Secure our elections -- The bill includes $380 million to help states like New Mexico secure election systems and voting infrastructure. Another $26 million in new funding for the Department of Homeland Security will help states and counties secure election infrastructure before November. 

-Provide affordable child care for working families -- The bill includes the largest single-year increase for Child Care and Development Block Grants in the program’s history, a $2.37 billion increase. 

-Protect health and the environment -- The bill rejects the Trump administration's dangerous cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. It also includes large increases for America’s national parks and public lands and begins to address their $19 billion backlog in deferred maintenance infrastructure needs.

New Mexico priorities include:

MILITARY BASES & DEFENSE

New Mexico National Guard — $8.6 million to build a new National Guard Readiness Center in Las Cruces. The funding will help build a 35,000 square foot readiness center to serve the Army National Guard's C Company, 3rd Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, which operates and houses four UH-72 Lakota helicopters at the Las Cruces International Airport. The new building will be built on National Guard land near the airport and provide aviators a dedicated readiness center. The building will include additional hangar space and room for training. 

The N.M. Guard will also benefit from $236 million for the National Guard Counter Drug Program. Funding will support ongoing efforts to secure the border from drug traffickers and other threats. 

Kirtland Air Force Base – $9.3 million to build a new fire station that will replace the undersized, deficient, and outdated fire station built in 1955.  The new fire station will include three high-bay drive-through apparatus stalls and will be capable of accommodating modern fire fighting vehicles and equipment. The proposed location of the facility will better serve the southeastern part of Kirtland Air Force Base and reduce response time to critical high-value facilities including Kirtland's underground munitions storage complex and the mission-critical hot cargo aircraft loading pad. 

Holloman Air Force Base — $4.25 million to build a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Fixed Ground Control Station Facility (FGCS). An adequately sized and configured facility is required to accommodate the installation of 10 new Block 50 FGCS and supporting equipment into a single facility. The facility will house each FGCS in its own mission room and provide communications rooms for connectivity to each squadron operations center.

Cannon Air Force Base — $42 million to build new facilities for combat arms training and maintenance (CATM) and a new cargo pad area. The cargo pad will be designed to support the loading and unloading of munitions simultaneously on two C-130s, or one C-5, C-17 or Boeing 747 aircraft. Construction of the new cargo pad requires the relocation of the current CATM facilities.

Special Operations Forces C-130 Aircraft Ground Equipment (AGE) – $8.228 million to build a new AGE facility on the southeast side of the base to maintain all assigned powered and non-powered aircraft support equipment. The AGE facility must support all assigned C-130 aircraft maintenance and 525 pieces of equipment.

Directed Energy Rapid Prototyping — $70 million to expand on the important work being done at Kirtland’s Air Force Research Lab Directed Energy Directorate. The additional funds will accelerate the development of a directed energy weapon system on an aerial platform and upgrade aging, directed energy infrastructure at the High Energy Laser Test Facility such as the integration of a 300 Kilowatt High Energy Laser into the existing Demonstrator Laser Weapons System (DLWS) infrastructure for further testing. Numerous programs are ready to be taken from the research and development pipeline into production, and Directed Energy prototyping will enable these technologies developed at Kirtland Air Force Base to take the next step toward production and eventual fielding to support the warfighter. Directed Energy technologies, such as high energy microwaves and laser weapons, will eventually provide the Department of Defense (DOD) with new options to protect the United States and its military from threats, such as the proliferation of missile technologies and threats to space assets. In addition, it will provide DOD with a less destructive weapon, which can render enemy assets inoperable without destroying infrastructure and putting civilians at risk. 

Overall, the spending agreement provides a significant increase of $158 million for accelerating the transition of Directed Energy systems to the military, including $88 million to accelerate a variety of high energy laser technology maturation initiatives for the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

Space Rapid Capabilities Office at Kirtland Air Force Base (formerly Operationally Responsive Space) -$87.57 million. The spending agreement provides a substantial increase in funding over previous years to continue responsive space efforts, including the building of a cloud characterization satellite for the military. Heinrich and Udall previously saved the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) mission from elimination and have consistently worked to increase funding for the continuation of ORS, which is a critical small satellite mission at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Space Test Program at Kirtland Air Force Base — $25.39 million. Since 1965, the Space Test Program (STP) has conducted space test missions for the purpose of accelerating Department of Defense space technology transformation while lowering developmental risk. The spending agreement provides $25.39 to continue serving as the primary access to space for the DOD space science and technology community.

Advanced Spacecraft Technology – $89.9 million total. In New Mexico, Udall and Heinrich worked to ensure three projects were funded:

-Space Situational Awareness Commercial Testbed — $15 million to help the Air Force field “best of breed” commercial space situational awareness capabilities at Kirtland Air Force Base.

-Magdalena Ridge Observatory — $10 million for the continued development of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory for ground-based optical surveillance of spacecraft in orbit. Advanced spacecraft technology supports technologies and systems meant to ensure protection and monitoring of space assets. Given increased competition and congestion in space, it is vital that our nation develops the infrastructure to monitor the condition and survivability of assets in space while providing a credible layer of accountability for behavior in space. Ground-based surveillance of space assets is the most cost effective means to carry out this mission.

-Radiation Hardened Microelectronics – $6 million to develop new kinds of materials and processes in semiconductor materials for non-volatile memory products and electronics for the purposes of enhanced performance in space.

Space Application: Advanced Technology - Army — $39.7 million for emerging tactical small space launch opportunities. The spending agreement is $20 million increase above the president’s budget request. New Mexico is the Center of Excellence for small space satellites.  

Space Technology – Air Force — $148.6 million to further small satellite technology for resiliency and augmentation of space architecture. This is a $19.6 million increase above the president’s budget request. New Mexico is the Center of Excellence for small space satellites.  

Army Test Ranges and Facilities — $317 million for Army test range and facilities to support White Sands Missile Range.

Navy Electromagnetic Systems and Applied Research — $85.6 million to support Project Mano, which will provide persistent day/night coverage to high value targets and reduce existing spatial and temporal coverage gaps.

STARBASE — The president recommended zeroing out this program, which is hosted by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base and has served nearly 8,000 5th grade students. Udall and Heinrich worked to ensure the program was funded at $12.9 million. STARBASE is a highly effective program run by our dedicated service members. It strengthens the relationships between the military, communities, and local school districts. The program allows students to participate in a 25-hour hands-on curriculum where they solve scientific challenges related to aerospace. Since its inception in 1991, over 825,000 students have benefitted from the STARBASE program, including 45,000 last year.

Technology Transfer — $18.29 million to support Air Force technology transfer projects in New Mexico – this is an increase of $15 million above the president’s requested funding level. Increased funds for technology transfer will create opportunities for successful technology spinoffs in New Mexico and throughout the country. The Air Force Research Lab creates many technologies that are ripe for use in the private sector.

Radiation Detection Personal Dosimeters — $18 million to procure personal radiation detection dosimeters. Albuquerque companies directly support this production effort. 

Election Security – $380 million for election security technology grants for states to fortify voting systems that was first proposed in the bipartisan Secure Elections Act sponsored by Heinrich.

NATIONAL LABS, NNSA, and WIPP

Los Alamos National Laboratory Plutonium Mission — $210 million – an increase of $25 million over fiscal year 2017 – for plutonium research activities. The bill also provides an additional $177 million for construction to replace the outdated Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) building at LANL.

NNSA Albuquerque Complex Project — $98 million to start construction of a new office building on Eubank Boulevard for NNSA’s Albuquerque Complex to replace the existing outdated and inadequate 50-year old facility. Construction is estimated to cost around $174 million and take about four years to complete. The new building will house up to 1,200 federal employees. Construction is planned to begin this summer.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Environmental Cleanup — $220 million for soil and water remediation and cleanup of radioactive waste at LANL. This is almost $30 million above the president’s request. Funding is included again this year to address the hexavalent chromium plume in groundwater in Los Alamos. The new management contractor, N3B, will begin work on April 30.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant — $382 million, $60 million above the request, and $85 million over last year, to operate the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The bill funds construction of additional ventilation for the mine, as well as a new exhaust shaft, which are needed additions following the 2014 accident at WIPP.

INTERIOR & ENVIRONMENT

Wildfire Funding Fix – The bill ensures reliable funding for fighting catastrophic wildfires for the next 10 years, starting in 2020. It ends the practice known as “fire borrowing” — in which the Forest Service and Interior Department are forced to borrow from non-fire activities, including prevention, to pay for fire suppression. The bill includes $1.946 billion in FY2018 for fire suppression, which is $500 million more than the 10-year average and the president’s budget. With carryover balances, this total provides for the forecasted costs estimated by the agencies for fire suppression. Beginning in 2020, it also increases the funding cap for wildfire suppression — starting at $2.25 billion in FY2020 and rising to $2.95 billion in FY2027 — and frees up the rest of the Forest Service budget to focus on forest stewardship, wildfire prevention, public access and recreation, and other core responsibilities. The combined provisions shore up funding for fighting wildfires for the next decade.

Land and Water Conservation Fund – $425 million nationwide for land acquisition, conservation easements, and state assistance grants, which is $25 million more than the fiscal year 2017 level and well above the $64 million level proposed in the president’s request. LWCF is critical for improving recreational access to our federal lands, protecting iconic landscapes, delivering grants to states and local governments to create and protect urban parks and open spaces, and providing farmers and ranchers with easements to allow them to continue to steward their private lands in the face of development pressures.

National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities – The bill increases funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, which provide grants to cultural institutions in New Mexico and every state, to a total of $152.8 million each, which is $3 million more than the fiscal year 2017 level. The omnibus rejects the president’s request, which proposed terminating the endowments.

Payment In Lieu of Taxes – The bill fully funds payments to counties in New Mexico and nationwide through the PILT program. Nationally, payments are estimated at a total of $530 million, which is $65 million more than last year’s level. New Mexico counties received more than $38.5 million through the PILT program in 2017.

Secure Rural Schools (SRS) – The bill provides two years of full funding for SRS, which supports public schools, public roads, forest health projects and other projects in rural communities. It is estimated that New Mexico will receive over $768,000 in payments in FY2018. 

Gold King Mine – The bill includes report language indicating concern about the progress that has yet to be made in processing or paying out claims. The report language requests an update from the EPA within 30 days of bill passage. The bill also includes $4 million for a long-term water quality monitoring program. 

Chaco Canyon – The bill solidifies the first-ever joint review by the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Farmington Field Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) Navajo Regional Office, which is examining the resource management of public and Tribal lands in Northwestern New Mexico, including the impact of development near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently cancelled a planned oil and gas lease sale in the Greater Chaco region. More than 450 protests were filed over the planned March 8 sale, and after hearing from the delegation and many other New Mexicans, Zinke agreed to halt the sale and return to the joint planning process that began in 2016.

Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund – $10 million for grant funding to federally recognized Tribes for reclamation of abandoned mine lands that support economic development. These new dollars can help address high priority coal cleanup projects, as identified by the Navajo Nation. 

National Park Service – The bill provides $3.202 billion for the National Park Service nationwide, an increase of $270 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. The bill includes critical investments to address the service’s estimated $11.3 billion backlog in deferred maintenance at parks nationwide, including $359.7 million for national park construction needs, an increase of $150 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. The bill also includes $2.48 billion for operations of national parks, an increase of $52.9 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. Within that amount, $30 million in new funding is provided for critical repairs and maintenance needs. The bill also rejects the president’s request to reduce funding for national parks and partnership programs across the country.

HEALTH & EDUCATION 

Child Care & Development Block Grant – The bill provides a $2.37 billion increase, nearly 80 percent, which is the largest increase in the program’s history for a single year. New Mexico stands to see an increase of $20.1 million to provide child care assistance to an additional 1,780 children. 

Head Start –  $610 million increase for Head Start Funding totaling $9.86 billion, which provides at-risk children with the early learning experiences they need to succeed in school, work, and life and supports low-income parents in their efforts to provide for their families.

Opioids – $1 billion for a new State Opioid Response Grant program nationwide, with a $50 million set-aside for American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. Udall, Heinrich, and eight other senators led the effort for the Tribal opioid funds.

Burn Pits – $5 million to improve the VA's Airborne Hazard and Burn Pit registry established by Udall’s Burn Pits Registry Act. The money is in response to recommendations by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in a report required by Udall’s bill.

Rural Health Care for Veterans – $270 million for the Rural Health Initiative to expand VA projects aimed at closing gaps in access in rural, highly rural and remote areas. This includes dedicated funding for telehealth programs that improve outcomes in rural areas.

Pell Grants –  The bill provides a $175 increase per student in the maximum Pell grant award, raising the total amount for the 2018-2019 school year to $6,095. The average cost of in-state tuition and fees in New Mexico is $6,620.   

Hispanic Serving Institutions – The bill provides 123 million, a $15.388 million increase for grants for direct support to institutions of higher education that educate a disproportionate share of Hispanic Americans. New Mexico is home to 18 Hispanic-Serving Institutions. 

Two Generation Approaches to Poverty Reduction — The bill requests that the federal government explore partnerships, pilots, and other federal opportunities for programs that take a two-generation approach to poverty reduction, including identifying potential barriers or challenges faced by organizations receiving funding from multiple federal programs. Heinrich introduced the bipartisan Two Generation Economic Empowerment Act to streamline existing federal programs and funding, and provides more flexibility and incentives for communities to implement programs that target both parents and children.

INDIAN AFFAIRS

Tribal Programs — The bill provides $5.5 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS) and $3.063 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). With a 10 percent increase for the IHS and a 7 percent increase for the BIA and BIE, the bill allows the federal government to better meet its trust and treaty obligations to Indian Country.

Tribal Infrastructure — The bill makes significant investments in Tribal community infrastructure. It increases funding for health care facilities at the Indian Health Service by 59 percent, Bureau of Indian Education schools by 78 percent, Bureau of Indian Affairs irrigation and water projects by 84 percent, and public safety facilities at Bureau of Indian Affairs by 212 percent.

Tribal Public Health and the Opioid Epidemic - The bill includes additional funding for Tribes to combat the opioid and behavioral health challenges facing many Native communities, reflecting the request Udall, Heinrich and eight other Democratic senators made to Appropriations leadership. The bill includes a 6 percent increase for mental health services and a 4 percent increase for alcohol and substance abuse program funding at the Indian Health Service. The bill expands Tribal access to federal opioid response programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), including a new Tribal set-aside of $50 million in SAMHSA’s Opioid Response Grant fund and a $5 million Tribal set-aside in SAMHSA’s Medication-Assisted Treatment for Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Program.

Tribal Public Safety – The agreement includes strong support for public safety initiatives in Indian Country, including a 5 percent increase in public safety funding for Tribal law enforcement, authorization of funding for school security, and – for the first time ever – a 3 percent Tribal set-aside within the Crime Victims Fund. The bill includes S.2495, the STOP School Violence Act of 2018, cosponsored by Udall and Heinrich to authorize Department of Justice’s Secure Our Schools (SOS) Grants for Tribal schools.

Water – Indian Land and Water Claims Settlements are funded at $55.5 million, an increase of $10 million above the FY 2017 level, including $21.7 million for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project and $4 million for the Navajo Water Resources Development Trust Fund. 

Tourism in Indian Country – A total of $3.4 million in funding is included to implement the NATIVE Act to promote Tribal tourism and economic development. The NATIVE Act was cosponsored by Udall and enacted into law by President Obama in 2016. It requires agencies with tourist assets to include Tribes and Native organizations in national tourism efforts and strategic planning.

Indian Arts & Crafts Act Enforcement – $2 million in additional funding, bringing the total to $77 million for anti-trafficking enforcement, including work to address the rampant problem of counterfeit Native American art in New Mexico and across the country. Udall held an Oversight Field Hearing in Santa Fe on the topic in July 2017. 

INFRASTRUCTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT & AGRICULTURE

Housing – $3.3 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), an increase of $300 million over FY2017. On top of this amount, the bill boosts funding for CDBG in Indian Country for a total of $65 million, an increase of $5 million over FY2017.

Rural Broadband – The bill funds a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) combination broadband loan/grant pilot program at $600 million to expand broadband in underserved rural areas. 

USDA Rural Development — $680 million for rural business programs. Specific programs important to New Mexico include rural business development grants funded at $34 million, up $10 million from FY2017, and guaranteed business and industry loans funded at $920 million.

TIGER Grants – The omnibus triples funding for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants from $500 million to $1.5 billion, reversing the president's threats to eradicate the program. This also increases the rural set aside to 30 percent from 20 percent of the total amount, meaning that rural infrastructure programs will receive an increase from $100 million in FY2017 to $450 million in FY2018 under the program. New Mexico received a $16 million TIGER grant under FY2017 funding for the Southwest Chief.

Rural Water – $66.5 million. Included is additional funding for rural water projects, such as Eastern New Mexico Rural Water, which are allocated by the Bureau of Reclamation.

Water Projects 

Army Corps of Engineers Capital -- The bill provides $123 million for investigations and $1.5 million for the Tribal partnership program, and $2.1 billion for Army Corps construction projects which are critical to New Mexico infrastructure. At least $15 million of the Corps funding must be used for reimbursements, and there are currently five communities in New Mexico awaiting reimbursement.  For New Mexico, this bill provides $21.3 million for operations and maintenance of water resource projects in the state.

Bureau of Reclamation – $1.48 billion for the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, $163 million above FY2017 to improve the management of water resources for 31 million people in 17 states, and to mitigate the impact of recent droughts in Western states. The bill provides $38 million for construction at Carlsbad, Middle Rio Grande, Pueblos and more.

New Mexico Specific Funds:

Corps of Engineers: Operations and Maintenance Funds

Abiquiu Dam  – $3.437 million

Cochiti Lake – $3.452 million

Conchas Lake – $5.769 million

Galisteo Dam  – $900,000

Inspection of Completed Works – $652,000

Jemez Canyon Dam – $753,000

Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program – $2.5 million

Santa Rosa Dam And Lake – $1.583 million

Scheduling Reservoir Operations – $383,000

Two Rivers Dam– $592,000

Upper Rio Grande Water Operations Model Study – $1.3 million

Bureau of Reclamation: Construction:

Carlsbad Project – $4.129 million

Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Supply – $1.875 million

Middle Rio Grande Project – $24.518 million

Rio Grande Project – $6.656 million

Rio Grande Pueblos Project – $1 million

Tucumcari Project, NM – $31,000 

Aamodt Water Settlement – $8 million. 

Navajo-Gallup Water Settlement – $67.8 million. 

WaterSMART Grants – $34 million, a $10 million increase from the president’s budget request.