Testimony Before the House Appropriations Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science

Mar 21, 2013 Issues: Environment, Jobs Labor and the Economy

Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

At the beginning of each Congress I write a set of goals to guide my and my office’s actions. These goals create a focal point for my office and are a daily reminder of what is important for my District. My number one goal is to invest in the foundation of long-term economic growth that creates jobs and opportunity in the Pacific Northwest.

An important part of that foundation is the health of our fisheries, which support about 60,000 jobs in my state.  Another important piece of the foundation is the strength of our international commerce, as 40 percent of all jobs in my state depend on trade.  I also know we can only grow and prosper if our communities are safe.

For these reasons I am requesting that in the Commerce, Justice, and Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, fiscal year 2014 you support programs that protect the natural heritage of my state, promote trade, and protect the safety of families.

The Pacific Northwest is home to a variety of important commercial and recreational fisheries, including salmon, groundfish, crab, and rockfish. Both the commercial fishing and outdoor recreation industries account for 60,000 jobs and nearly $4.5 billion in economic activity in my state alone, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Many of our salmon runs are endangered because of years of overfishing, development, and a lack of management tools. That puts our economy in jeopardy too.

That is why I am asking the Committee to fund the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund at $65 million for Fiscal Year 2014. I appreciate the Committee’s support for this program in the past. Your support has resulted in impressive accomplishments. Salmon runs are improving.   Tribes, states, local governments, and stakeholders are coordinating their efforts to ensure that they continue to improve. Another critical piece of funding for salmon improvements is the Mitchell Act, which funds hatchery improvements and has been the key to reforms in the hatchery program. The salmon and steelhead produced from these hatcheries are an economic engine for small communities that rely on recreational fishing. In short, hatchery reform brought about through funding for the Mitchell Act has kept people fishing. That’s welcome news in for Northwest communities.

In addition to protecting our fisheries, we must also protect the programs in this bill that grow our exports. Forty percent of all jobs in Washington state are linked to foreign trade. More than 8,500 Washington state companies exported their products in 2010. Ninety-one percent of those were small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 500 employees. When we export our products around the world, we create jobs here at home.  I urge this Committee to including full funding for the International Trade Administration (ITA), which seeks to develop the export potential of U.S. firms and improve the trade performance of U.S. industry. I also urge full support for the U.S. Commercial Service, which helps inexperienced firms export their products overseas. The Commercial Service facilitated $54 billion in U.S. exports in 2011, helping 18,500 companies nationwide, including 317 companies Washington state.

As we work to grow the economy, we must also make sure we are making investments in the safety of our communities. Safe communities allow children and families to thrive and contribute to our society. That is why I ask you to fully fund the Justice Assistance Grants, COPS Grants, and the Regional Information Sharing System.

Law enforcement officials in my District use this funding to keep cops on the street and criminals in check. Commander Pat Slack, of the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, relies on the $200,000 he gets in JAG funding for nearly half of his Task Force’s operations.  He told me that further funding cuts could cost Snohomish County the criminal prosecutor who handles all federal prosecutions involving drugs and guns that arise in the county.

The cities of Mount Vernon, Burlington, and Everett in my district have used COPS grants to hire additional officers in the last few years, resulting in five additional police officers protecting communities in Northwest Washington.

The Regional Information Sharing System, which helps law enforcement prevent overlapping operations and keeps officers safe, received a 40 percent funding cut in fiscal year 2012. This valuable system’s resources are increasingly stretched, even as demand for its services continues to increase. Everett Police Chief Kathy Atwood, who serves on the board of the Western States Information Network of RISS, says her department relies heavily on the RISSafe database to keep officers safe on the job. Use of RISSafe allows a city police department to find out about a federal undercover agent their operation could endanger, and prevents state and local law enforcement from sending armed agents into the same drug distribution house at the same time. Chief Atwood says that knowing how and when other law enforcement agencies are working nearby is, quote “like the 911 system. It’s something we just simply could not do without.” Funding cuts have already cost critical RISS personnel including Washington state’s Crime Analyst.  I urge this committee to fully fund RISS, and consider restoring its fiscal year 2011 funding level of $45 million.

With that Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, I appreciate the opportunity to testify today and I encourage the Committee to invest in what I see as the foundation of long-term economic growth that creates jobs and opportunity.