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NM Senators support massive spending bill, NM House Dems oppose

A massive spending bill that cleared the Senate late Saturday passed with reluctant support from New Mexico’s two Democratic senators who objected to provisions that altered rules for campaign finance and Wall Street banks.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both New Mexico Democrats, voted for the spending bill that funds New Mexico’s national laboratories, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, military bases, technology transfer, water projects and other programs. On Thursday, Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., voted for the bill while Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham both voted against it. The bill is now on its way to President Obama’s desk.

“This bill includes critical funding for New Mexico, to sustain our national labs and military bases, continue recovery at WIPP, and ensure New Mexicans can count on basic government services like schools, public safety, roads and so many other needs,” Udall said. “I’m extremely disappointed that this bill also contains measures that weaken campaign finance laws and roll back Wall Street reforms. Our duty is to the American people—not Wall Street billionaires and bankers. But at the end of the day, I could not risk a government shutdown. I will continue to do everything I can as a member of the Appropriations Committee to get Congress back to working for New Mexico and the American people. The American people deserve better than this broken process. They deserve a Congress that works—that is open and deliberate—not last-minute deals and gimmicks for special interests. We cannot keep getting in just under the wire.”

Heinrich said the good in the bill outweighs the bad.

“New Mexico relies heavily on these federal investments,” Heinrich said. “Home to military bases, national laboratories, and WIPP, our state serves the nation in many ways. Federal dollars help fund critical education initiatives, infrastructure projects, and other vitally important economic drivers. This appropriations bill also includes funding for our nation’s response to the Ebola epidemic and to combat the threat presented by the terrorist organization ISIL.

“It is very unfortunate that the bill includes policy riders that I don’t support and which don’t belong there – including ones that would open the floodgates to special interest money influencing our elections and undo reforms to protect hardworking taxpayers from having to again bailout Wall Street bankers,” Heinrich added. “I’m also opposed to an amendment that could compromise the retirement security of hardworking families. While I’m pleased that PILT funding was included in the final package, I will continue to push for full and dedicated funding for Secure Rural Schools to give our counties the budget certainty they need. Our economy desperately needs long-term stability. It doesn’t need another government shutdown. We must continue to work together and be willing to compromise in order to get things done for the American people and New Mexico.”

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said the bill was fatally flawed in her mind.

“While I hoped to vote for a clean spending bill that invests in New Mexico priorities like Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base, I could not support legislation that puts the interests of big banks and billionaires ahead of college students who are drowning in debt, homeowners that are still facing foreclosures and retirees and working Americans who lost everything because of the reckless activities of the too big to fail banks,” Lujan Grisham said. “As America continues to recover, everyone needs a shot at recovery – not just big business. New Mexico families are still struggling to recover from the last taxpayer-funded bailout of Wall Street – they should not have to shoulder that burden ever again. The bill jeopardizes national security, cuts earned retiree pension benefits, and rolls back campaign finance rules that opens the door to even more special-interest spending during political campaigns. These provisions put special interests above working-class Americans and have no business in appropriations legislation.”

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said the bill was a mixed bag but that its positive provisions were worthy of support.

“Passing the spending bill as our last order of business this year was critical, as it will provide certainty and stability for New Mexico businesses through the next fiscal year,” said Congressman Steve Pearce. “Compelling points and arguments existed on both sides of the issues, and I found there were reasons to vote for and against the bill. The bill provides several provisions to protect jobs and restrict crippling federal regulation and overreach, including protecting farmers and ranchers from new grazing fees on BLM and Forest Service lands. The legislation also reduces federal bureaucracy. It decreases funding for the IRS by $346 million. The bill restricts overreach of the federal government, including a provision to prevent the EPA from passing a rule to regulate lead content in ammunition, and it prohibits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from requiring Clean Water Act permits for agricultural ponds and ditches.”

“We have increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and provided $45.2 billion for VA medical services, including $7 billion for mental health care, $133 million for suicide prevention and $7 billion for homeless veterans’ assistance.”

“I commend Chairman Calvert and Chairman Rogers for putting forth legislation that includes vital provisions that will help Western communities grow and prosper,” said Pearce. “The bill increases funding for hazardous fuels reduction to help Western communities prevent catastrophic wildfires. It also prevents the administration from implementing new fees on oil and gas producers who create jobs and ensure stable energy prices for middle-class families. The bill cuts full-time employees at the EPA to the lowest level in 25 years, and rejects $66 million requested by the President to implement even more economically devastating regulations. The bill will give statewide conservation efforts a chance to succeed by preventing a listing of the sage grouse, which would have severe economic consequences for many Western communities.”

“Last, but not least, the bill fully funds the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Program (PILT) that so many Western communities rely on for their everyday needs. The provisions in this bill are essential in providing certainty and the potential for economic growth in the West.”

Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham, both Democrats, voted against the bill.

“It is deeply disappointing that Congressional Republicans have used this process to pass damaging provisions that roll back critical Wall Street reforms and further undermine campaign finance rules,” Lujan said. “In addition, the measure shortchanges investments in key areas that are critical to our nation’s economic competitiveness and New Mexico’s future – cutting Pell Grants and providing inadequate investment to clean energy. It also plays games with funding the Department of Homeland Security, which provides critical resources to New Mexico.

“After immigration executive action was taken to increase accountability and keep families together, House Republicans have now offered their response – funding the Department of Homeland Security only through February. Rather than taking action on bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that passed the Senate more than 500 days ago, House Republicans have charted a path that provides uncertainty for the agency tasked with protecting our homeland and securing our borders. As a result, grants to border states such as New Mexico will be in question.

“While I hoped to vote for a clean spending bill that invests in New Mexico priorities like Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base, I could not support legislation that puts the interests of big banks and billionaires ahead of college students who are drowning in debt, homeowners that are still facing foreclosures and retirees and working Americans who lost everything because of the reckless activities of the too big to fail banks,” Lujan Grisham said. “As America continues to recover, everyone needs a shot at recovery – not just big business. New Mexico families are still struggling to recover from the last taxpayer-funded bailout of Wall Street – they should not have to shoulder that burden ever again. The bill jeopardizes national security, cuts earned retiree pension benefits, and rolls back campaign finance rules that opens the door to even more special-interest spending during political campaigns. These provisions put special interests above working-class Americans and have no business in appropriations legislation.”

New Mexico funding in the bill includes (this information is from the office of Udall, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee:

Some of the money included for New Mexico, according to Udall’s office:

Payment in-lieu of taxes program (PILT):

With $70 million included in a defense bill, which is also before Congress this week, and $372 million in the omnibus, the PILT program is funded at $442 million. The total will be divided according to a formula determined by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Last year, New Mexico counties received $37 million.

WIPP, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories:

The bill provides $320 million for WIPP, including the administration’s original funding request of $220 million. The additional $100 million is designated for cleanup from the radiological accident and equals the estimate DOE has provided for FY15 recovery activities at WIPP.

B61 Life Extension Project:

$643 million. Both Los Alamos and Sandia national labs are instrumental in carrying out this program, which maintains our nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile while allowing for the eventual elimination of the nation’s largest warhead, the B83. The bill fully funds the B61 LEP for FY15 and supports recent job increases at Sandia.

LANL Cleanup: $185 million

LANL Recapitalization: $22.7 million for 10 projects plus $23 million for TA-55 Reinvestment Project Phase II and III LANL

Sandia National Laboratory Recapitalization:

$30.8 million for seven projects.

Technology Transfer:

$4.8 million for technology transfer at the Department of Defense, $2.1 million above the president’s request, plus an additional $10 million for a regionally focused technology transfer innovation pilot program, requested by Senator Udall. The pilot will facilitate public-private ventures between the Department of Defense research and development centers and regionally focused technology incubators.

MILITARY/DOD

-Cannon Air Force Base:

$23.3 million for a Squadron Operations Facility

-Kirtland Air Force Base High Energy Laser:

$14 million for high energy laser research initiatives, $1.0 million more than the president’s request for work that will partially be done at KAFB.

-Kirtland Air Force Base Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office:

$20 million. The ORS Office is responsible for responsive space capabilities that enable rapid deployment of military resources all around the world. Senator Udall secured this funding, not included in the president’s request, to complete the development, launch, and operations of the ORS mission and to support the integration of ORS approaches across the space capabilities in the Air Force.

DOD Starbase Funding:

$25 million increase in funding for STARBASE, a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education program for fifth graders. Senator Udall succeeded in pushing for this civilian program that provides 25 hours of engaging STEM instruction. The technology-rich military environment allows students to experience first-hand “real-world” application of STEM skills. The DoD STARBASE Program creates an unequaled bridge between the U.S. Military and STEM education with local school students that is achieved through strong civilian/military leadership involvement, state of the art curriculum and technology, nation-wide program standardization, a complete understanding of military culture, and assured access to military installations.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):

The legislation includes a total of $159.1 billion, $1.8 billion above the enacted fiscal year 2014 level.

VA Medical Services:

$45.2 billion – providing care and treatment for approximately 6.7 million veterans. This includes: $7.2 billion in mental health care services; $133 million in suicide prevention activities; $229 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $7.4 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives.

Rural Health:

$209 million to help address new costs related to the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 including hiring medical staff, expanding facility capacity, and allowing rural veterans to seek care outside the VA system.

Oversight:

To help address issues related to the “wait list” scandal at the VA in New Mexico and elsewhere, Udall pushed for additional funding for the VA Office of Inspector General. The agreement increases funding by $5 million over the fiscal year 2014 level to provide the resources necessary to continue the Office’s audits of hospital appointment scheduling and lapses in patient care. The legislation also includes language directing the VA Office of the Medical Inspector to report on problems or deficiencies in the implementation of its recommendations, and on any violations of law by VA employees.

Advance Funding for Veterans Medical Programs:

$58.7 billion in advance fiscal year 2016 funding for the VA. This funding will provide for medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities, and ensure that our veterans have continued, full access to their medical care.

Water Projects:

-Navajo-Gallup Project: The bill provides $81 million for the construction of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project and the historic 2010 Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement Agreement. The project will supply water to the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation, the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the city of Gallup, serving the future water needs of approximately 250,000 people.

Other Water Settlements

-Aamodt: $3 million

-Taos Pueblo: $4 million

-Middle Rio Grande: The bill includes a provision encouraging development and implementation of the Water Acquisition Program along the Middle Rio Grande and San Juan Chama Projects and the Physical Habitat Restoration and Management efforts along the San Acacia Reach consistent with fiscal year 2014 activities.

Bureau of Reclamation:

-Westwide Drought Response: $50 million for drought response in Western states.

-Reauthorization of Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act of 1991 (a provision from Udall’s drought bill, the New Mexico Drought Relief Act of 2014)

-Secure Water Act: The bill increases the authorization from $200 million to $300 million (also a provision from Udall’s New Mexico Drought Relief Act of 2014).

-Rural Water Projects: $31 million in discretionary funds for rural water projects, which may be used to fund projects like the Eastern New Mexico-Ute Pipeline.

The bill also includes specific funding for the following Bureau of Reclamation projects in New Mexico:

-Carlsbad Project: $4,139,000

-Middle Rio Grande Project: $22,735,000

-Rio Grande Project: $5,406,000

-Rio Grande Pueblos Project: $650,000

-Tucumcari Project: $34,000

-Navajo Indian Irrigation Project: $3.4 million

ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS

-Tribal Partnership Program: $2.5M

-Espanola Valley, Rio Grande & Tributaries: $300,000

-Rio Grande Basin, NM, CO, and TX (Sec. 729): $300,000

-Middle Rio Grande Flood Protection, Bernalillo to Belen: $276,000

-Abiquiu Dam: $2,794,000

-Cochiti Lake: $3,587,000

-Conchas Lake: $2,794,000

-Galisteo Dam: $1,150,000

-Inspection of Completed Environmental Projects: $30,000

-Inspection of Completed Works: $654,000

-Jemez Canyon Dam: $1,392,000

-Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program: $2,492,000

-Santa Rosa Dam and Lake: $1,594,000

-Scheduling Reservoir Operations: $330,000

-Two Rivers Dam: $797,000

-Upper Rio Grande Water Operations Model Study: $1,289,000

WILDFIRE SUPPRESSION AND PREVENTION

-Hazardous fuels reduction activities: $526 million total nationwide

-Wildfire suppression: $1.394 billion total for the Forest Service and DOI to respond to forest fires.

-Aircraft acquisition to enhance firefighting capacity, effectiveness: $65 million

-Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Fund: $40 million for ecological restoration treatments of forests. This helps prevent fires and make healthy watersheds. Two projects in New Mexico are ongoing (Zuni Mountain and Jemez Mountains)

Financial Services and General Govermment:

-Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB): $7.5 million for the PCLOB to help ensure that federal laws and policies related to terrorism appropriately consider privacy and civil liberties. These resources, $4.4 million more than the fiscal year 2014 enacted level, will enable the PCLOB to pursue its mission without delay.

-10 temporary federal judgeships extended for one year, including one in New Mexico.

-Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP): $375 million, $8 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This includes $245 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program and $93.5 million for the Drug-Free Communities program.

-State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement: $2.3 billion to support state and local law enforcement with the tools they need to fight violent crime and gangs. This amount is $55 million more than the fiscal year 2014 level and includes funding for key grant programs, such as $376 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, $180 million for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grants, $430 million for Violence Against Women Act programs and $252 million for juvenile justice and mentoring grants.

-Heroin Crisis: $7 million to fund a new program within the COPS Office for anti-heroin task forces. Competitive grants will be awarded for drug enforcement, including investigations and activities related to the distribution of heroin or unlawful diversion and distribution of prescription opioids. The agreement calls on the DOJ to take the lead in convening experts in the law enforcement, medical, public health and educational fields to develop a comprehensive government-wide solution for this crisis. The bill also provides funding for OJP grant programs available to state and local governments for residential drug treatment ($10 million), prescription drug monitoring ($11 million), and drug courts ($41 million).

-Funding for 35 new Immigration Judge Teams allowing Executive Office for Immigration Review to adjudicate up to 39,000 more cases annually.

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