U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Saturday night’s Senate passage of the compromise spending legislation for fiscal year 2015, which keeps 90% of the federal government funded through next September. The legislation includes funding for several top priorities for Virginia, including the refueling and overhaul of the aircraft carrier George Washington, full funding for Washington’s Metro transit system, funds to repair the damages at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and funds for a cost-of-living increase for federal workers. The agreement largely maintains the spending caps that Congress and the White House agreed to last year.
“We shouldn’t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This package avoids the damage and disruption of another government shutdown, and it honors the spending caps that Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate agreed-to last year,” Sen. Warner said. “The Virginia delegation worked together to make sure our priorities received fair consideration, and I am very pleased we’ve been able to maintain support for projects and programs that create jobs, strengthen economic opportunity and improve the quality-of-life in every region of the Commonwealth.”
“I’m happy we have a bipartisan appropriations bill that provides critical programs with certainty through the remainder of the fiscal year 2015,” Sen. Kaine said. “This bill includes important funding for priorities across Virginia that we have fought for throughout the year, including significant funding for repairs at NASA Wallops, maintaining our 11 aircraft carrier fleet, supporting shipbuilding in Hampton Roads, transportation funding in Northern Virginia, and funding for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act,” said Kaine. “While I am disappointed that full-year funding for the Department of Homeland Security is held up and a measure to weaken Wall Street regulations has been included, I’m optimistic this legislation is a step in the right direction toward normal budgetary order.”
Sens. Warner and Kaine highlighted the following Virginia priorities which are included in the legislation:
NASA Wallops Flight Facility: provides $20 million for the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, an important national asset that supports NASA’s initiatives to partner with the private sector on commercial spaceflight opportunities. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s launch pad at Wallops suffered significant damage in a launch failure on Oct. 28.
NASA Langley Advanced Composites Initiative: Increases funding for NASA’s aeronautics program by $90 million, much of which will go to programs at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, including the Advanced Composites Initiative focused on developing the next generation of aircraft materials that Sen. Warner worked with NASA Langley officials to help establish.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro): provides $150 million in capital improvements to rebuild the aging Metro transit system, which provides 725,700 transit rail boardings each day across the National Capital Region.
Refueling of the Navy Carrier George Washington: Funds $848 million for the overhaul and refueling of the aircraft carrier George Washington, a decision which supports the U.S. Navy’s commitment to an 11 aircraft carrier fleet, in line with the National Defense Authorization Act which Sen. Kaine worked to include as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The bill also provides funding for the Ford-class aircraft carriers currently under construction in Newport News.
Military Commissaries: restores $190 million which had been proposed to be cut from the military commissary program. Commissaries are important to families of enlisted personnel, reservists and retirees, and are a benefit equivalent to approximately $3,000 per year for younger military families.
Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act: Includes $12 million for a pediatric research initiative at the National Institutes of Health. Sens. Kaine and Warner worked to enact the authorizing legislation, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG): increases the President’s request for the CDBG program from $2.8 billion to $3.0 billion. CDBG provides flexible grants to local governments to support economic development, job creation, and safe, affordable housing.
Oil by Rail Safety: Directs the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to improve the existing DOT-111 tank car standards and designs by no later than January 15, 2015. Sens. Warner and Kaine urged USDOT to improve oil tank car standards following the April 30, 2014 derailment in Lynchburg of 17 rail cars carrying crude oil, sparking a fire and spill along the James River.
PILT, or Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Extends current funding for PILT payments for counties that cannot collect property taxes on land under federal ownership, such as national forests.
Appalachian Regional Commission: increases funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission from $68 million to $90 million. The ARC, which promotes infrastructure development, economic development and job creation in the 13-state Appalachian region, was a key partner for Virginia when Sens. Warner and Kaine each served as Governor of Virginia.
Chesapeake Bay: increases from $70 million to $73 million in funding for the multiagency program dedicated to restoring the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay Program Office is an essential partner in carrying out efforts that range from wildlife protection to pollution monitoring and runoff reduction.
Center for Campus Public Safety: provides $2 million for the National Center for Campus Public Safety, which was based on legislation introduced by Sen. Warner and U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) to provide a clearinghouse at the U.S. Department of Justice for information, training techniques and best practices to help make college and university campuses safer.
Federal Workers and Federal Retirees: the bill allows a one-percent pay raise for federal workers, to take effect in January, and continues limits on official travel and agency conferences. It also includes language requested by Sen. Warner directing the Office of Management and Budget to provide timely reports and briefings on reductions to the federal retiree application backlog, which exceeded 62,000 cases in 2012 and resulted in some retirees waiting one year or more before beginning to receive their earned benefits.
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA): includes $245 million in funding for stepped-up drug enforcement in regions across the country battling methamphetamine, heroin, and prescription drug abuse.
Battlefield Land Preservation: Provides $9 million under the American Battlefield Protection Program to preserve Civil War battlefield lands at risk of being lost to development. Sen. Kaine has supported this program since joining the Senate and recently led bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and expand it. Virginia leads the nation in historic Civil War battlefield acreage preserved under this program.
Job Training: includes $2.624 billion, a $36 million increase in funding, for the recently reauthorized Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Grants to States to provide job training skills and assistance to low-skilled adults, dislocated workers, and low-income youth with barriers to employment.
Black Lung Clinics Program: maintains current funding for black lung clinics to provide primary care, patient and family counseling, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Sen. Kaine and Sen. Warner recently introduced legislation to reform the Black Lung Benefits System.