News Releases

(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) responded to funding levels proposed by President Bush for some of the critical priorities for Washington state. 

Read Senator Murray's statement on the overall budget. 

Veterans

Veterans Health Administration
FY08 – $36.7 billion
FY09 President Request – $38.7 billion (not including $2.5 billion in collections)

Veterans Benefits Administration
FY08 – $45.6 billion
FY09 President Request – $46.4 billion

The President’s VA budget increases discretionary spending by $1.6 billion, up from the $43.1 billion it received last year.  The president’s discretionary budget request is approximately $5.6 billion less than the $50.3 recommended by the Independent Budget.  It increases the co-payment for prescription drugs from $8 to $15, and imposes an annual enrollment fee for veterans who make $50,000 or more a year.  Finally, the Administration wants to have the fees returned to the Treasury instead of allowing the VA to reinvest the money raised. 

"The next generation of combat veterans is risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they deserve to know that they will be cared for when they return home," said Senator Murray. "The President’s budget sends the wrong message. It cuts critical programs in the VA, including funding for medical research, state extended care facilities and cemeteries.  And the plan to charge enrollment fees and return them to Treasury is unacceptable.  It seems to me that at a time of war - when we are asking the world of the men and women who have fought for our freedoms - that the President should be tearing down barriers to care for veterans, not building new ones.”

Port Security

FY08 President’s Budget - $210 million
FY08 Omnibus - $400 million
FY09 President’s Budget - $210 million

"A week ago, in his State of the Union speech, President Bush called providing effective measures to protect our country his 'most solemn duty'," said Senator Murray. "Today we find out that he has underfunded grant programs that safeguards our ports, people, and economy. Nearly seven years after 9/11, it's time for the President to cut the rhetoric, not the funding that we need to protect our ports."

Northern Border Prosecutor Initiative

FY08 President’s Budget - $0
FY08 DHS Omnibus - $2.8 million
FY09 President’s Budget - $0

"I am pleased that the President recognizes the security challenges on our borders and has sought additional funding to help increase the number of customs and border officials," said Senator Murray. "However, we also need to support our northern border communities that are bearing the burden of increased law enforcement expenses. I'm working to get the federal government to step-up to the plate to support these communities in the same way we support southern border communities."

Law Enforcement (DOJ)

FY08 President's Budget - $574 million
FY08 Omnibus - $1.595 billion
FY09 President's Budget - $409 million

President Bush's budget eliminates COPS grants and significantly reduces Byrne Grants.  

“I’ve talked to Police chiefs, sheriffs, anti-gang units, and FBI officials and they all tell me the same thing - that they’re being asked to do more with less,” said Senator Murray. “Yet, President Bush has decided to once again squeeze the resources that help them patrol our streets, lock up criminals, and keep our kids safe. No matter how the President tries to move funding around and rename programs, a cut is a cut. And this year our law enforcement officials face a devastating cut for the grant programs they rely on.”

Medicare Facility Cuts 

The President has proposed freezing Medicare reimbursement levels for medical facilities including hospitals, hospices, ambulance services, and long-term care facilities. 

“Our state’s medical facilities are already strained due to the federal government’s lack of Medicare reimbursement support,” said Senator Murray. “Now the President is threatening to exacerbate the problem by freezing reimbursement levels in the coming years. I know that we need to cut costs and find savings, but that can’t mean balancing the budget on the backs of facilities that are stepping-up to provide needed care. If the President really wants to make health care 'accessible for all Americans', as he said in the State of the Union, he needs to ensure that the federal government is a full partner in treating the nation's elderly and disabled."

Hanford

The President’s budget provides adequate funding for the vitrification plant ($690 million).  But while he increased the Energy Department’s budget by $1.1 billion, he cut environmental management by $166 million.  And the River Corridor Closure project – which is responsible for cocooning the reactors along the Columbia River, and for cleaning up burial grounds, waste sites, and excess facilities – was cut by almost $60 million.

“Instead of sending the critical dollars needed to meet our federal commitment to Hanford cleanup, the President’s budget sends mixed messages," said Senator Murray. "The people of the Tri-Cities sacrificed for the strength and safety of our nation and it is a national obligation to clean up the waste.”

Workforce

FY08 President’s Budget - $4.5 billion
FY08 Omnibus - $5.2 billion
FY09 President’s Budget - $4.6 billion

"The Bush Administration’s budget request for workforce training is a step backwards for workers seeking help in acquiring the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the 21st century," said Senator Murray "Despite the fact that 7.7 million people are out of work, and another 6 million people are working part-time because they cannot find full-time work, this budget cuts $484 million from critical workforce training programs."

Sound Transit

The President’s requested budget includes $28.8 million to complete the full funding grant agreement for the Central Link initial segment, and it includes $100 million for the University Link extension project.

“The President’s budget recognizes the importance of light rail to Puget Sound residents," said Senator Murray. "Having a fast, efficient transportation option to get from UW to downtown to the airport will help reduce congestion on our roads and pollution in our air.  The investment of an additional $100 million is a positive sign that the federal government will continue to be a partner on the light rail line from downtown to UW.  I look forward to working to complete this important next step.”

Small Start

The President’s budget also includes $300,000 in follow-on funding for the Pacific Highway South Bus rapid transit project, and $11 million for the Bellevue-Redmond BRT project.

“I was also pleased to see that the President included money for two ‘Small Start’ projects to help fund rapid transit buses in King County," said Senator Murray. "Providing alternatives for people on the Eastside and in the Seattle metro area to get to work helps us keep our air clean and ensures that everyone spends less time sitting in traffic."

Housing/Community Development Block Grants

For the fourth consecutive year, the Administration proposes a large decrease to the Community Development Fund, a cut of $866 million or 22.4 percent below the FY 2008 enacted level. The CDBG formula grant program is cut by $659 or 18.4 percent. 

"Because each federal dollar leverages about $30 in private capital, CDBG is one of the best investments we can make," said Senator Murray. "That's a great return on our investment – and that doesn't include the lives it changes and the communities it rebuilds. Robbing our communities of these funds right now – when our country is trying to get back on its feet and states and cities are facing revenue shortfalls – is the wrong thing to do."

Section 8 Tenant based housing assistance: $16.039 billion - reduced by $386 million below the FY 2008 enacted level of $16.4 billion 

Housing for the Elderly: $540 million - reduced by $195 million, or 36 percent, below the level of $735 million included in the FY 2008 enacted level

Housing for Persons with Disabilities: $160 million - reduced this program by $77 million, or 32 percent, below the level of $237 million included FY 2008.

HOPE VI:  As has been the case in previous budget, the Administration is once again proposing to eliminate funding for HOPE VI program, which tears down and rebuilds the most severely distressed public housing.  This program was funded at $100 million in Fiscal Year 2008. 

Public Housing Capital Fund: $2.02 billion - The President’s request would reduce this account by $415 million, or 17 percent, below the $2.439 billion level included in the FY 2008 enacted bill. 

"I am extremely disappointed that in the middle of a housing crisis the President has slashed funds to help keep our communities strong and ensure low-income residents avoid homelessness," said Senator Murray. "Robbing our communities of these funds right now – when our country is trying to get back on its feet and states and cities are facing revenue shortfalls – is the wrong thing to do.”

Pacific Salmon

FY08 Omnibus - $67 million
FY09 President's Budget – $35 million

“President Bush’s deep cut to the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund is a serious threat to our efforts to restore and protect salmon habitat – a critical part of our state’s economy, culture and history," said Senator Murray. "The Pacific Coastal Salmon Fund does more than just maintain our rivers, streams, and salmon – it maintains our way of life in the Northwest, and I’ll fight to restore federal support for this vital program.”

Forest Service

“It is vitally important to Washington state that the Forest Service get the money it needs to do its work – from forest fire prevention to conservation efforts to protect our productive natural resources," said Senator Murray. "President Bush has failed for years to produce smart budgets that protect us against wildfires and conserve our state’s incredible natural heritage, and this year’s proposal is just more of the same.”

Urban Indian Health Care

FY08 President’s Budget - $0
FY08 Omnibus - $35 million
FY09 President’s Budget - $0

There are two urban Indian health centers in Washington state, in Seattle and Spokane.

“Once again, the President’s budget is bad news for Indian Country.  The U.S. government has a legal and moral responsibility to provide health care for Indians, but this Administration has turned its back on Indian Country time and again,” Senator Murray said.  “The health disparities in Indian Country are staggering, and I have heard firsthand from the tribal members in my state how important urban Indian health centers are.  I will fight to ensure funding is restored again this year, so we can keep working to improve health care among tribal members.”