Warner, Kaine on federal budget bill becoming law
U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement on the government funding bill becoming law, averting another shutdown. The legislation fully funds the government through September 30th and includes numerous provisions the Senators championed to benefit Virginia, including a salary boost for federal workers and more funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration.
“We’re relieved hundreds of thousands of federal employees won’t have to go without pay again because of President Trump’s determination to shut the government down, but these hardworking public servants are sick of us lurching from crisis-to-crisis every couple weeks,” said the Senators. “While we’re glad this bipartisan package includes many key Virginia priorities, it’s inexcusable that it does not include back pay for federal contractors, who are still hurting from the last shutdown. We hope Congress will finally pass legislation to address this issue.”
On the President’s national emergency declaration for border wall funding, the Senators said, “We made significant investments in border security done the right way, and there’s no good reason President Trump should do a political power grab for more. When national security leaders brief us on the big security threats against our nation, they are not asking us for a wall. The President is just saying this is an emergency so he can get his vanity project, and it’s deeply concerning that he’s trying to build it by pulling from military construction funds, which is money that should be going toward projects like fixing military family housing and making security improvements to our bases.”
The following list includes many of the provisions Sens. Warner and Kaine supported on behalf of Virginia that were included in the appropriations bill:
- Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA): The bill includes a 1.9 percent salary increase for federal civilian employees.
- Border Security: The bill includes $100 million in border security technology and $564 million for non-intrusive port-scanning technology. It also adds 600 customs officers.
- Opioid Crisis: The bill includes $468 million to help combat heroin, fentanyl, and illegal distribution and abuse of opioids.
- WMATA: The bill includes the full annual federal funding commitment of $150 million for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) capital improvements.
- Chesapeake Bay: The bill provides $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership that directs and conducts the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, of which $6 million is for nutrient and sediment removal grants and $6 million is for small watershed grants to control polluted runoff from urban, suburban, and agricultural lands.
- Grants to State and Local Law Enforcement: The bill includes more than $3 billion in grants to state and local law enforcement. This includes: $178 million to address sexual assault kit and other DNA evidence backlogs; $100 million for the STOP School Violence Act; and $75 million for grants to improve the NICS firearms background check system.
- NASA Langley: The agreement provides $21.5 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which is $764 million above last year’s funding level. The legislation provides full support for both the Space Launch System ($2.15B) and Orion ($1.35B), which will be responsible for future deep space travel and benefits NASA Langley. The NASA Aeronautics program will receive $725 million, $40 million above last year’s level, which funds substantial work at NASA Langley, and additional funding will go towards launch infrastructure improvements at Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
- Unmanned Systems: The bill appropriates $6 million in matching funds for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research. Sen. Warner successfully amended the Senate bill to double funding to $6 million for research done through UAS test sites like the one at Virginia Tech, which are working towards integrating UAS into the national airspace.
- BUILD infrastructure grants: The bill provides $900 million for competitive transportation grants through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program, formerly known as “TIGER” grants. Virginia has previously used these grants for projects, including improvements to Washington’s Metro system, I-95 Express Lanes, I-564 connector from Norfolk International Terminals at the Port of Virginia, I-64 Delta Frames Bridges in Rockbridge County, the Pulse bus-rapid transit system in Richmond, and Northstar Boulevard in Loudoun County near Dulles.
- Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): The bill provides $435 million for LWCF, which has helped preserve forests, trails, wildlife refuges, historic battlefields, and Chesapeake Bay lands and waters in Virginia. Just earlier this week, Congress passed legislation to permanently reauthorize this crucial program. In the span of four decades, Virginia has received more than $350 million in LWCF funding to protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails, and more.
- National Park Service: The bill provides more than $3.2 billion for operations of the National Park Service. In 2018, nearly 26 million individuals visited Virginias’s 22 National Parks and provided over $1 billion in economic benefits to the Commonwealth and gateway communities.
- Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT): The bill includes $500 million for payments to counties through the PILT program in order to help local governments offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries.
- Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI): The bill provides $1 million to help bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across America. Recent changes to the program included in the Senate-passed version of the 2018 Farm Bill closely follow Sen. Warner’s efforts in the Senate to eradicate food deserts.
- FBI Headquarters: The bill does not include funding for the Trump Administration’s plan to demolish the existing FBI headquarters in Washington and build a new facility in its place. Warner and Kaine have for years worked to secure funding for a FBI headquarters at a new site to replace the current, deteriorating building in Washington. They have raised concerns about the White House’s involvement in the abrupt decision to reverse course on a new FBI HQ location and have called on the Department of Justice to investigate that decision.