Udall Advances Critical Transportation, Housing, Science and Law Enforcement Funding
Appropriations bills provide NM communities with resources to address Tribal domestic violence, drug abuse epidemic, drunken driving prevention
WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the Senate Appropriations Committee in advancing two bipartisan bills to spur economic development and fund transportation projects, affordable housing, and other priorities important to New Mexico. New Mexico programs receiving support and funding through the two bills include the airports in Carlsbad, Clovis and Grant County; Spaceport America; Native American housing construction; Tribal justice programs; the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Tribal science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs; and the Very Large Array and Very Long Baseline Array - two world-class NSF telescopes in Socorro.
Overall, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) appropriations bill provides a $1.4 billion increase to promote affordable housing and reliable transportation in communities nationwide. The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill has a $563 million increase and includes funding to combat the drug abuse epidemic and support local law enforcement.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Udall pushed for funding to support New Mexico's rural airports; increase grants for transportation infrastructure; support anti-homelessness programs; provide resources for Native American housing construction and rehabilitation; and make investments in programs that support science and technology innovation in New Mexico. Udall also secured full funding for a program developing lifesaving drunken-driving prevention technology and a measure to encourage better standards for football helmets - two efforts he has championed for many years.
"From the roofs over our heads to the roads we drive on, these two appropriations bills support programs important to New Mexicans' everyday lives," Udall said. "After years of sequestration budget cuts, I'm glad we're moving past unstable budgets and giving critical housing, transportation and law enforcement programs the certainty they need to make investments in our communities, help families, attract businesses, and create jobs. Programs like Homeless Assistance Grants support some of New Mexico's most vulnerable, and we've included measures to encourage STEM education and high-tech job growth. This bill also includes modest funding to combat the drug abuse epidemic facing our communities - but I continue to support the president's more realistic proposal for $1.1 billion in emergency funds to fight heroin and prescription opioid abuse."
Udall cosponsored an amendment that was approved today that will help Tribes support victims of crimes, including survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The amendment would create a 5 percent dedicated funding stream for Tribes in the Crime Victims Fund (CVF).
"Tragically, there is a great need for funding to combat domestic abuse and sexual assault in Indian Country," Udall continued. "One of the most serious crimes is domestic violence. Native American women experience sexual assault and domestic violence at a much higher rate than others - the statistics are horrifying. Those numbers tell a story of individuals desperate for help, and too often we have failed to provide that help. Dedicating a portion of the Crime Victims Fund to Tribal communities will help survivors heal and move forward with their lives."
Senator Martin Heinrich welcomed the legislation. Heinrich said: "Public safety, innovation, and economic development are all important pieces of this bill. This legislation supports our local law enforcement agencies, invests in scientific research and NASA missions, and funds treatment and prevention efforts to combat the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic that impacts communities across New Mexico. This legislation also provides for critical transportation safety enhancements and efficiency improvements. Our rail system and local airports in New Mexico make vital contributions to our state's economy, and this bill will ensure that we continue to invest in that infrastructure. I commend Senator Udall for his leadership and will keep working to support these kinds of investments in the future for our state."
Highlights of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) appropriations bill include:
- Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants: Communities in New Mexico and across the country depend on TIGER grants to help pay for major transportation construction work to repair and rebuild highways, bridges and other infrastructure. The bill includes a $25 million increase for a total of $525 million.
- Support for local airports: Airports in Carlsbad, Clovis and Grant County receive support through the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which the bill funds at $150 million. The legislation also includes Udall's provision ensuring that the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington will remain eligible in fiscal year 2017 for full Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding - an important source of federal support for construction and maintenance. The provision is the same as the one Udall worked to include in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation, which was approved by the Senate earlier this week. The duplication is intended to help ensure Congress passes the provision by the end of the year.
- Amtrak: The bill provides $1.42 billion for Amtrak - a $30 million increase - and funds critical rail safety measures. The increased funding will help address some maintenance needs for rail lines nationwide. It also requires the Secretary of Transportation to finalize its spill response plan for trains carrying oil. While Udall supports the funding increase, it is not enough for Amtrak's many needs, including the Southwest Chief, and Udall said he is disappointed that Congress still has not addressed the severe and growing maintenance backlog. He will continue to fight for a commonsense plan for Amtrak's needs, including adequate funding for the Southwest Chief.
- Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART): At President Obama's recommendation, ART may receive fiscal year 2017 funding through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)'s "Small Starts" program. The bill includes $241 million for Small Starts, 60 percent below the president's budget proposal. If Congress ultimately approves the reduced funding level, the FTA will determine which projects receive support in fiscal year 2017 and which are pushed to fiscal year 2018.
- Housing programs: The bill funds several housing and revitalization programs, including Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to support local economic development projects, and the Homeless Assistance Grants program, which is receiving an $80 million increase. Additional funding will allow Continuum of Care grantees to develop and evaluate new housing and supportive services interventions for youth experiencing homelessness. It also supports two important Native American housing and community revitalization programs - the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) program and the Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) program - which support Tribes working to improve housing conditions and create economic opportunity.
- Drunken driving prevention and auto safety: Udall has championed Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) technology, which has the potential to dramatically reduce drunken driving fatalities by detecting a driver's blood alcohol content before starting a vehicle. The bill fully funds the program at just over $5 million. It also includes a $22 million increase for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Udall has championed anti-drunken driving efforts throughout his career in public service.
- Lead-based paint standards: The bill includes a comprehensive series of initiatives to address lead-based paint hazards in low-income housing. These include reforms to current policies, quality controls for physical inspections, expansion of oversight and enforcement capacity, and additional funding for Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) and low-income homeowners to address lead-based paint hazards.
Highlights of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill include:
- Addressing heroin and prescription drug abuse: Udall has long fought to increase support to help communities treat and prevent drug abuse - particularly prescription opioid drug abuse, which is too often a gateway to heroin use. The bill includes $132 million to help communities nationwide combat heroin and illegal distribution of opioids. The anti-heroin task force program within the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office is provided $10 million and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is provided $12.5 million for four new heroin enforcement squads. The bill also funds Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) and other Justice Department grant programs that provide prevention and treatment opportunities including residential drug treatment ($14 million), prescription drug monitoring ($14 million) and drug courts ($43 million).
- Local law enforcement: The bill provides $2.4 billion in grants to help state and local law enforcement fight crime, including $187 million for the COPS program to hire another 1,000 police officers. It also funds several Justice Department programs to strengthen police-community relations.
- Helping survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault in Indian Country: Udall cosponsored an amendment added to the bill to create a 5 percent dedicated tribal funding stream in the Crime Victims Fund (CVF). This funding will help Tribes support victims of crimes and address high rates of domestic violence.
- Economic development: The bill funds the Economic Development Administration (EDA) at $254 million. It also provides funding for Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers, including MEP offices in Albuquerque and Farmington that help small businesses strengthen and grow manufacturing throughout the state.
- Wireless innovation: The bill creates a federal challenge prize to dramatically improve the efficiency of spectrum use, a scarce and valuable resource that fuels the modern mobile economy and supports national security and public safety missions. Udall first called for such a prize in his Spectrum Challenge Prize Act, which would award up to $5 million for breakthrough wireless technologies.
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): New Mexico is home to NASA facilities outside Las Cruces, and the bill provides NASA $19.3 billion total. That includes $19.3 million for the Flight Opportunities Program, an increase that will help fund suborbital flights for research, testing and educational purposes including out of New Mexico's Spaceport.
- National Science Foundation (NSF): The bill allocates $7.51 billion for the NSF, a $46 million increase. The NSF provides grants for basic research at New Mexico's universities and supports science facilities such as Socorro's Very Large Array, the most advanced radio telescope array on Earth, and the Very Long Baseline Array. Udall also supported provisions in the bill to help develop a high-tech workforce, improve STEM education at Tribal colleges and encourage NSF to transition the operation of older solar telescopes (such as the Dunn Solar Telescope in Sunspot, NM) to university consortia or other non-federal entities.
- Helmet safety: Udall has led efforts in Congress to improve sports equipment safety standards and curb false "anti-concussion" advertising claims for youth sports gear. The bill encourages the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to continue to investigate the development of new and better standards and test methods for football helmets.
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