Sen. Warner reacts to Senate confirmation of ARC co-chair
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Tim Thomas, President Trump’s nominee to be the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.
“I was proud to support Mr. Thomas’ nomination to lead federal efforts to foster economic development in Appalachia,” said Sen. Warner. “Despite the Administration’s attempt to defund the Appalachian Regional Commission, I worked with my colleagues on a bipartisan funding agreement this week that just increased its funding by $3 million—the highest level approved in decades. Now that he has been confirmed as its co-chair, I trust Mr. Thomas will carry out his duties with a clear focus on expanding economic opportunities in the region and I look forward to working together to achieve this.”
The Appalachian Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership that has invested in 25,000 projects across Appalachia’s 420 counties. For more than fifty years, ARC has provided funding and support for job-creating community projects across the 13 Appalachian states, producing an average of $204 million in annual earnings for a region often challenged by economic underdevelopment. Since its inception in 1965, ARC has generated over 300,000 jobs and $10 billion for the 25 million Americans living in Appalachia.
A bipartisan Congressional budget agreement passed by Congress this week included a $3 million increase in additional funding for ARC, for a total of $155 million in FY18. In his budget plan, President Trump had proposed eliminating funding for the ARC entirely. In response, Sen. Warner and a bipartisan coalition of Senators who represent Appalachian states called on President Trump to reverse his proposal to zero out funding for this important federal-state partnership. In 2017 alone, Sen. Warner announced over $7 million in ARC grant funding for projects in Virginia’s Appalachian counties.
Sen. Warner serves as a co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Appalachia Initiative, which has laid out a roadmap for bipartisan legislation to jumpstart economic growth in the region. He has introduced bipartisan legislation to support and encourage public-private partnerships in Appalachia that improve regional infrastructure, encourage entrepreneurship, and create jobs.
Mr. Thomas served on the state staff of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a field representative based in the Senator’s Bowling Green office. A native Kentuckian, Thomas previously served in the administration of former Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher as a special assistant to the secretary of the Kentucky Environmental Cabinet, handling matters including legislative initiatives for the agency, according to the ARC In a meeting last month, Sen. Warner and Thomas discussed their shared priorities for Appalachia, including workforce development and combatting the opioid crisis.