Funding Package Managed by Murkowski Passes Senate 92-6
Investing in Health, Safety, Infrastructure, and Community Development
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) recently voted in favor of a funding package, which combines the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Appropriations bills for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD); Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; Financial Services and General Government; as well as Senator Murkowski’s Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill. As a member of the Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murkowski helped secure funding in the bill to further develop Alaska’s transportation and housing infrastructure, protect our land and water, and improve the safety, health, and well-being of Alaskans. Senator Murkowski was selected by her peers to manage this funding package on the floor and her leadership resulted in final passage of the four funding bills and bringing back regular order to the appropriations process.
“I’m proud of the funding in these bills to create opportunities for Alaskans, and I am equally proud that the progress we’ve made to advance appropriations bills was done in a bipartisan manner,” said Senator Murkowski. “This bill robustly funds the Essential Air Service, addresses unique transportation and infrastructure needs in Alaska, initiatives to boost Alaska’s tourism industry, protections for our world-class fisheries, among a range of other Alaskan initiatives to protect Alaska’s land, people, and wildlife. All in all, this bill does the work to address some of Alaska’s most pressing needs. I’m proud of the work this bill does to improve the livelihood of all Alaskans.”
The 2019 Fiscal Year begins October 1, 2018.
Note: Senator Murkowski is chairman of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee.
- Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Provides $500 million, full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. The PILT program provides monetary compensation to local governments throughout Alaska that contain federal lands that are not subject to state or local taxation. The revenue helps local governments provide vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations.
- National Parks: Addresses the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog by increasing its construction and deferred maintenance budgets.
- Alaska Native Villages Water Program: Increases funding to $25 million for the construction of new drinking water and wastewater systems, or the improvement of existing systems in rural Alaskan communities.
- Wildfire Prevention and Suppression: Fully funds the 10-year average cost of our nation’s wildfire suppression needs, and provides additional resources to the Forest Service and Department of the Interior in the event of a catastrophic wildfire season. The bill also provides increases for the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to $623 million for preventative measures that can be made in advance of wildfire season, such as hazardous fuels reduction and fuel breaks.
- 3D Alaska Mapping: Maintains funding for Alaska mapping initiatives at $7.7 million, which will continue to help gather data to improve maps, enhancing safety for activities such as aviation.
- Fighting Opioids: The bill establishes a new grant program through IHS which provides $10 million to help tribes fight back against opioid abuse, $7.5 million is continued through BIA to fight opioid addiction. To help address the problem of opioid over-prescription, language is included requiring a report on both federal and tribal pharmacy compliance with state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.
- Native Children’s Commission: The bill provides funding for the Commission on Native Children created to identify the complex challenges facing Native children in Alaska and across the country by conducting an intensive study on issues such as high rates of poverty, unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and dire economic opportunities. Senator Murkowski, along with Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota, sponsored legislation creating the Commission.
- National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): Increased funding is provided to support the arts through NEA and NEH, including support for NEA’s the Healing Arts Program, developed by the NEA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to help our nation’s wounded and injured service members and their families in their transition into civilian life.
- Essential Air Service: Increased funding of $315 million, $30 million more than the previous fiscal year, to support access for rural communities otherwise isolated from the National Air Transportation System.
- Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grants: Previously known as TIGER grants, provides a substantial increase to $1 billion for capital projects that generate economic development and improve access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation for communities, such as investing in road, rail, transit, and port projects to maintain transportation networks critical to Alaska.
- Ferry Boat and Facilities Funding: Provides level funding of $80 million under the FAST Act to maintain a national ferry boat database and improves construction of ferry boats, acquiring right-of-way, and constructing ferry terminal facilities.
- HUD-VASH Demonstration Program for Homeless and At-Risk Native Vets: Allocates $5 million for HUD-VASH vouchers, a demonstration program offering permanent homes and supportive services to Native American Veterans who are experiencing or risk experiencing homelessness.
- GE Salmon: Continues the current import ban of GE Salmon until final labeling guidelines have been set by the FDA as well as requires the Agency to review the “New Animal Drug” process currently used to approve GE salmon, and whether it is an appropriate evaluation process for genetically engineered animals for human consumption when it was created to approve drugs intended for use in animals.
- High Energy Cost Grant Program: $10 million for assisting energy providers and other eligible entities in lowering energy costs for families and individuals in areas with extremely high per-household energy costs.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): $73.219 billion mandatory full funding to fully meet the needs of food-insecure working poor, seniors, military families and others.
- Seafood Advice: Directs the FDA to reissue its seafood advice and to make necessary technical corrections to ensure that pregnant and nursing women receive consistent and understandable nutrition advice, based on the most recent and complete nutrition science, on what seafood is safe and healthy to consume.
- Floriculture: New this year, it restores funding to allow the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to produce the Floriculture Crops Report, and directs the agency to include data from Alaska. This was a high priority for Alaska’s peony farmers across the state.
Financial Services and General Government Highlights:
- Executive Office of the President: Provides $728 million to maintain the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities (DFC) programs within the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The bill provides $280 million for the HIDTA program to combat heroin and prescription opioid abuse and $99 million for the DFC program.
- Taxpayer Advocate Service Centers: Recognizing the difficulty experienced by Alaska and Hawaii taxpayers in receiving tax assistance by the national toll-free line due to the states’ remote distance from the U.S. mainland, the bill directs the IRS to appropriately staff Taxpayer Advocate Service Centers with experts capable of resolving taxpayer problems of the most complex nature.
- Small Business Administration: $699.3 million to provide assistance to small businesses, expand the economy, and increase job growth for unemployed and underemployed Americans, as well as fully funding business loans at $159.2 million.
- Ensuring Accountability and Transparency: Prohibits the IRS to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs as well as individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights.
- Treasury Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence: $159 million, a $17 million increase, to combat terrorism financing and administers economic and trade sanctions.