Larsen Votes for Job-Creating Investments in Annual Government Funding Bill

WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today voted to approve a government funding bill that includes several job-creating investments for which he has long advocated. The Omnibus Appropriations Act provides funding for all federal agencies through September 2014, in line with a bipartisan budget agreement that Congress passed last month.

“My top priority in Congress is to invest in the foundation of long-term economic growth that creates jobs and opportunity in the Pacific Northwest,” Larsen said. “This bill meets that test by directing investments to our roads, bridges and highways, helping small businesses export their products, and protecting our environmental resources in the Northwest.

“The United States did not become the most powerful economy in the world by accident. Our leaders have long made targeted investments in our infrastructure, education and research that foster economic growth and innovation. This bill is an important step in getting Congress back on track to investing in our shared prosperity.

“After a year of job-killing automatic spending cuts, I am pleased that Congress has returned to taking a rational approach to budgeting. This bill makes targeted cuts and importantly preserves vital investments that strengthen our economy. I hope this process serves as a model for bipartisan cooperation and will break the cycle of manufactured crises and shutdown politics.”

A summary of highlights of the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Northwest Washington follows. A full summary of the bill is available here.

Highlights of the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Northwest Washington

Investing in our Transportation Infrastructure

  • Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program: $600 million, which is an increase of $100 million from 2013. TIGER grants fund major transportation investment projects. Larsen has introduced a bill called TIGER CUBS to modify the program to direct more of these funds to small and mid-sized cities like those throughout Northwest Washington.
  • New Starts grant program: $1.943 billion, which is an increase of $88 million from 2013. The New Starts program funds major transit capital investments including ferries, rail and buses.

Creating Jobs through Exports

  • State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program: $8 million. The STEP program helps small businesses trying to overcome hurdles to exporting. The program, established as a pilot in 2010, was due to expire this year. Larsen and Rep. Dave Reichert, WA-08, introduced a bill last year to permanently reauthorize STEP. Larsen requested continued STEP funding in the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
  • Export-Import Bank of the United States: $115.5 million. The Export-Import Bank helps finance U.S. exports that create jobs at home. The bank has supported more than $48 billion in exports from Washington’s 2nd Congressional District since 2007, including support for 15 businesses. Larsen led the effort in 2012 to reauthorize the Export Import Bank.
  • Select USA: $7 million. Select USA complements the efforts of states to show foreign investors why the United States is the right place to expand business and create jobs.
  • Other export promotion initiatives:
    • Overseas Private Investment Corps: $89.9 million
    • Trade and Development Agency: $55.1 million
    • U.S. Trade Representative: $52.6 million
    • International Trade Administration: $470 million

Supporting Small Business Job Growth

  • Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) programs: $36 million, which is an increase of $10 million from 2013. PTACs help businesses meet requirements for government contracts. Congress recently passed legislation that included provisions put forward by Larsen to help reform the PTAC program to support more small- and medium-sized businesses.
  • Defense Rapid Innovation Program: $175 million. The program helps small businesses access defense contracts.
  • Manufacturing Technology Program: $69 million, which is $34 million above the President’s budget request. The Manufacturing Technology Program supports innovative manufacturing development.
  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR): $1.8 million. The SBIR program drives defense dollars to small manufacturers so taxpayers benefit from the innovative approaches that small businesses take.
  • Industrial Base Innovation Fund: $75 million. The fund supports investments in innovative technologies.

Investing in Students

  • Head Start: $8.6 billion, which is an increase of $612 million over 2013 and includes $500 million to expand Early Head Start. Head Start programs in Northwest Washington suffered due to sequestration’s automatic spending cuts last year.
  • Impact Aid: $1.3 billion, which is an increase of $65 million from 2013 and matches Larsen’s funding request. Impact Aid provides payments to school districts that serve large numbers of military families and Indian tribes. Larsen has championed Impact Aid in Congress, and introduced bipartisan legislation last year to make the program permanent and speed payments to local districts.
  • Pell Grants: $22.8 billion. Pell Grants help students with financial need attend college. The bill also increases the maximum Pell Grant award by $85 to $5,730.

Protecting the Environment and Creating Jobs in the Northwest

  • Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund: $65 million, which is $15 million more than the President’s budget request. Larsen led the effort to secure these funds, leading a letter of 10 representatives requesting the funding in April.
  • Puget Sound recovery efforts: $25 million, more than $7 million above the President’s budget request. Larsen joined other Puget Sound lawmakers in requesting the funds last month.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: $125 million for general investigations, which is an increase of $7 million from 2013. This is the source of funding for the Skagit River General Investigation (GI) Study which will provide the roadmap for flood control in the Skagit Valley.

Strengthening Northwest Washington’s Role in our National Defense

  • Naval Air Station Whidbey Island construction projects:
    • $32 million for EA-18G facility improvements
    • $84 million for P-8A hangar and training facilities
    • $10 million to replace fuel pier breakwater
  • KC-46 Aerial Refueling Tanker: full funding. The KC-46 is being built at the Boeing Everett factory.
  • P-8A Poseidon: full funding. The P-8As are being built by Boeing and are slated to be based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
  • Coast Guard Icebreaker: $2 million for the continued design of a new heavy-duty Coast Guard icebreaker. Larsen is leading efforts in Congress to invest in the nation’s icebreaking fleet.

Keeping Our Promise to Veterans

  • Larsen fix to veterans disability rating problem: The bill’s report includes language Larsen authored to address an issue a constituent faced with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ disability rating process. Learn more about the fix here.
  • Cost-of-living adjustments: Repeals a cut to cost-of-living adjustments for disabled military retirees and their survivors.
  • Veterans employment training: $270 million.
  • Veteran medical services: $43.6 billion to provide for approximately 6.5 million patients in 2014. The funds include:
    • $7.2 billion in mental health care services
    • $103 million in suicide prevention activities
    • $246 million for traumatic brain injury treatment
    • $6.2 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training
    • $250 million in rural health initiatives, continuing the Rural Health Initiative established by Congress in 2009 to ensure that the VA dedicates sufficient resources to reach veterans residing in rural and highly rural areas who do not have immediate access to a veterans medical center or community based outpatient clinic.
  • HUD-VASH: $75 million. The HUD-VASH program provides housing and supportive services for homeless and struggling veterans. This funding has gone to veterans in Snohomish and Skagit counties in recent years.
  • Disability claims processing backlog
  • $140 million, an increase of $20 million above the President’s request for information technology upgrades at regional offices to manage the improved paperless claims processing system
  • $90 million for potential overtime, and $10 million for additional training for claims processors
  • $88 million, a $13 million increase above the President’s request for the Board of Veterans Appeals to address the growing appeals backlog

Investing in Healthy and Safe Communities

  • Local law enforcement support:
    • Byrne-JAG grants: $376 million
    • COPS: $214 million. The COPS program had been eliminated in the original House budget proposal, and this funding sets aside grants to put roughly 1,500 new cops on the beat.
  • Violence Against Women Act programs: $417 million. Larsen helped lead efforts to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act last year.
  • Family Violence Prevention: $138 million. The funding includes $4.5 million for a National Domestic violence hotline. Currently 100,000 requests a year for services go unmet and this funding will help meet the needs.
  • Affordable Housing: $27 billion for Section 8 affordable housing support.
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): $6.7 billion, which is sufficient to meet expected needs in 2014.
  • Community Health Centers: $3.6 billion. The funding includes $350 million for the establishment of new centers and expansion of services at current centers.
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant program: $2.36 billion, which is a $36 million increase from 2013. The grant program helps low-income families afford quality child care. The increase will support services for an estimated 22,000 additional children.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): $29.9 billion. The NIH funds life-saving medical research at research hospitals and universities, including in the Puget Sound.