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Blunt Votes to Fund Key Missouri Priorities, Cut Dozens of Ineffective Government Programs

December 18, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) released the following statement today after voting in favor of the FY2016 omnibus appropriations bill funding the government for the coming year. The bill prioritizes key investments that will help grow our economy, strengthen national security, and meet the needs of local communities in Missouri and across the nation. The measure also rescinds more than $5.5 billion in spending, does not fund more than 95 new programs or initiatives proposed by the president, and consolidates and terminates dozens of programs throughout the budget. 

“In a tight fiscal environment, it is imperative that every taxpayer dollar we spend reflects the priorities of the American people, and the bill we passed today does so in several ways,” Blunt said. “First, it includes a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, which I fought for as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and increases investments in mental health services. It provides funding for Missouri military installations and national defense priorities that will help keep America safe and fulfill our commitment to our service members and veterans. It funds programs that address challenges facing local communities, including support for areas facing civil unrest, and increased funding for substance abuse treatment and prevention. And, it includes measures I backed that will enhance our cybersecurity and help keep terrorists out of the United States.

“Just as important as what this bill does is what it does not do. It does not fund nearly 100 new or unauthorized programs proposed by the president. It does not allow the administration to use taxpayer funds to bailout health insurance companies, and it defunds ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board. And, it eliminates dozens of duplicative or ineffective programs, including 18 programs in the Labor/HHS budget alone. 

“That said, this bill is far from perfect. I was disappointed that Senate Democrats blocked the majority of the 12 annual appropriations bills from coming to the floor this year, and hope that next year we can return to regular order in the appropriations process. Taking up these bills one by one will give us the opportunity to scrutinize every dollar we spend, and to spend it effectively or not at all.”

Following Are Some of the Key Missouri Priorities Funded in the Bill:

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies:

  • United States Department of Agriculture Disaster Funding – $271 million for USDA’s three disaster programs:  the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP), the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), and the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP). Missouri will receive $1.2 million under the EWP program, and the following funding under the ECP program:

 

           County                  Amount                       County                        Amount


           Saline                     $650,000                   Pike                             $50,000

           Lincoln                  $150,000                    Scotland                     $100,000

           Clay, Ray              $5,500,000                  Webster                      $250,000

           Lafayette              $700,000                     Wright                       $200,000

 

  • Policy Research Cooperative Agreements – $4 million for agreements with institutions that provide complex economic and policy analysis. The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri benefits from these agreements.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service Watersheds – $5.6 million for NRCS to continue work toward completion of Little Otter and East Locust watershed projects.
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Capacity Building for Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture – $5 million to assist Missouri’s five non-land grant Colleges of Agriculture: Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University, and the University of Central Missouri.
  • Country-of-Origin Labeling – The bill includes language to repeal country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef and pork, an issue at the center of a World Trade Organization case successfully brought by Canada and Mexico. This repeal brings the US into compliance with our international trade obligations and avoids $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs being imposed on US exports to Canada and Mexico.

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies:

  • Victims of Child Abuse Program – $20 million for the Victims of Child Abuse program, the level authorized by Blunt’s Victims of Child Abuse Reauthorization Act and a $9 million increase over the president’s budget request. In March 2015, Blunt sent a letter to the appropriations subcommittee requesting full funding for the Victims of Child Abuse program. VOCAA, which Blunt introduced with Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), was signed into law in 2014.
  • Regional Information Sharing System Program – The Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center, which operates the RISS program in nine states, is based in Springfield, Missouri. The bill funds RISS at $35 million, $10 million above the president’s request and a $5 million increase over last year’s funding level. RISS allows law enforcement agencies across the country to successfully resolve criminal investigations, apprehend and prosecute offenders, and ensure officer and public safety.
  • Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program – Blunt is an original cosponsor of the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act, legislation reauthorizing the JMHCP, which was approved by the Senate earlier this month. The omnibus bill provides $10 million for JMHCP, a program aimed at expanding access to mental health services for individuals in the criminal justice system and providing support for mental health courts and crisis intervention teams.

Defense and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies:

  • Blunt, a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations, secured funding for Missouri military installations and several national defense priorities in the omnibus. More information on the Blunt provisions included in the bill is available here

Energy and Water Development:

  • Small Ports –$48 million for operations and maintenance for small harbors and channels, and directs a new study on the cumulative economic impact of the all shallow draft ports on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri, and Baton Rouge, LA.  

Financial Services & General Government:

  • High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program – Midwest HIDTA is located in Kansas City, Mo. and supports HIDTA law enforcement initiatives in six states. The bill funds HIDTA at $250 million, more than $56 million above the president’s request, and a $5 million increase over last year’s funding level. Blunt supports the HIDTA program, which is an effective and innovative initiative that provides critical assistance to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to combat major drug-trafficking organizations across the country.
  • Joint Sales Agreements – The bill includes legislation Blunt introduced to protect local television broadcasters with Joint Sales Agreements that were approved by the FCC before its controversial rule was issued on March 31, 2014. The bill grandfathers existing JSAs for broadcasters in small- and medium-sized markets for the next 10 years. JSAs allow broadcasters to sell advertising for other stations, and have played an important role in giving TV broadcasters the tools they need to keep their TV stations running, increase program diversity, and enable local news programming for many stations in Missouri and nationwide.

Homeland:

  • Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Program and Assistance to Firefighters Grants – The bill provides $345 million each for the SAFER program, which provides funding to hire firefighters, and the AFG program, which provides equipment to firefighters. This represents a $5 million increase over last year’s funding levels for each program. Earlier this year, Blunt sent a letter to the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee expressing his strong support for the SAFER and AFG programs.

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies:

  • Park Service Fees – The bill includes Blunt’s language to direct the Treasury Secretary to invest privately-donated dollars for Park Service projects in interest bearing accounts, and allows the Park Service to keep the interest generated to the benefit of the project. This will help promote public-private partnerships like CityArchRiver 2015 at the Gateway Arch.

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Blunt is Chairman):

  • Support for Ferguson and Other Communities Facing Civil Unrest – The bill includes new provisions and funding across the Departments of Labor, HHS, Education, and AmeriCorps to support flexible solutions for communities like Ferguson and others across the nation facing intense periods of civil unrest. This includes a combined $15 million at the Department of Education and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address the comprehensive needs, including school-based services, of youth experiencing trauma related to significant periods of civil unrest in their communities.
  • National Institutes of Health – NIH has received $32 billion in the bill, representing a $2 billion increase over last year’s funding level, which Blunt, who chairs the Labor/HHS appropriations subcommittee, successfully fought for in the Senate committee-passed appropriations measure earlier this year. Further information on NIH priorities that are included in the bill, such as funding for cancer and Alzheimer’s research, is available here.
  • Fighting Opioid Abuse – The bill provides $123 million for programs to combat opioid abuse at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and SAMHSA, a 284 percent increase over last year’s funding level.
  • Job Training Grants to States – Last year, Missouri received over $41 million in job training grants, which are distributed to states and localities to meet job training and reemployment needs. The bill provides $2.7 billion in grant funding, an increase of $86 million over last year’s funding level.
  • Rural Health Care – $149.6 million for rural health programs, an increase of $2.1 million over last year’s funding level. In May, Blunt held a rural health care hearing with HHS officials and members of the rural health provider community, including Tim Wolters from Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, to discuss the unique challenges facing rural health patients and providers.
  • Mental Health Programs of Regional and National Significance –$414.6 million, an increase of $36 million over last year’s funding level, for competitive grant programs that support mental health services. Specifically, the agreement provides a $25 million increase above last year’s level for Project Aware and the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training grants.
  • Mental Health Block Grants – Missouri received approximately $7.8 million in mental health block grant funding last year. The bill provides $532.6 million for the program, an increase of $50 million over last year’s funding level. The bill increases the set-aside for serious mental illness activities to 10 percent and fully offsets this increase with the additional funds. Further, an additional $20 million will be provided to states through the formula grant, which represents the primary sources of mental health funding for state programs.
  • Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants – Missouri received approximately $26.4 million in substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant funding last year. These funds provide flexible dollars to grantees to support and expand substance abuse and prevention services based on local need. The bill provides $1.9 billion in total grant funding, an increase of $38.2 million over last year’s level.
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant – Missouri currently receives $45 million in discretionary funding under the CCDBG program, and will receive an estimated $6 million funding increase next year under this bill. The measure provides a $326 increase in overall funding, which will help states implement key reforms in the CCDBG Act of 2014 to improve child care health and safety standards, and otherwise improve working families’ access to quality child care.
  • Taxpayer Transparency – Includes Blunt’s Taxpayer Transparency Act requiring agencies funded under the Labor/HHS appropriations bill to disclose when advertising materials are paid for with federal funds.
  • Program Eliminations – Eliminates 18 overlapping or ineffective programs, equating to $256.8 million in spending reductions, and does not include funding for 23 new, unauthorized initiatives proposed by the administration, saving taxpayers $1.16 billion.

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs:

  • Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in Near East & South Central Asia – The bill includes Blunt’s request for $1 million in dedicated funding for the Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. Blunt was the lead Senate sponsor of the bill that created the position, which was signed into law last year.

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies:

  • Marine Highway Grants – Blunt secured $5 million dollars for the Short Sea Shipping Program, also known as the Marine Highway Grant Program. MARAD recently designated the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers – the M-55 and M-35 Highways connecting Chicago and Minneapolis to New Orleans – to serve as the primary routes for a developing container-on-barge service.
  • Bus Service – The bill includes funding consistent with the newly reestablished buses and bus facilities competitive grants program in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. Blunt has long fought for the reestablishment of this program, which was changed in the 2012 highway bill.  The program will help medium and smaller sized transit agencies with older bus fleets that have been negatively impacted by changes to the funding methodology.


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