(Washington, DC)- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray wrote to the White House to outline a number of top budget priorities for the Pacific Northwest. As a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, Murray wrote to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mitchell Daniels, at the start of the annual budget process to highlight key issues in the federal budget.
The text of Senator Murray's letter appears below:
January 31, 2002
Mr. Mitchell Daniels
Office of Management and Budget
The White House
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20503
Dear Mr. Daniels:
As we begin the annual budget process, I am writing to urge your support of several efforts that are vital to the security and economy of the Pacific Northwest. I appreciate the Administration's commitment to security issues. As we work together to win the war on terrorism and to strengthen homeland security, we must develop a federal budget that reflects the values and priorities of all Americans.
On behalf of the people I represent, I am writing to make sure the Administration is aware of some of our highest priorities in the federal budget. Working together, we can meet our international and domestic goals and support the efforts that are vital to the people of the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, I want to draw your attention to nine critical areas: unemployment insurance, health care, agriculture, special education, border security, nuclear waste cleanup, environment, infrastructure, and prescription drugs.
Families in Washington state are on the front lines of this recession, and they are feeling the impact. Washington state has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation. Many workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have not qualified for an extension. We must extend unemployment benefits as soon as possible to help workers through these hard times.
As part of the President's efforts to bring the economy out of recession, I urge this Administration to maintain a solid commitment to infrastructure development and improvement. Our transportation infrastructure affects our productivity, our economy and our quality of life. By improving our roads, bridges, mass transit and airports, we can make our economy more productive and can lay the foundation for our future economic growth.
Heath Care Safety Net
I also urge the Administration to support efforts to strengthen the health care safety net. We must provide additional resources to Medicaid. Medicaid provides access to health care for millions of working families and children, as well as senior citizens and the disabled. This is not the time to turn our back on our most vulnerable citizens. The recession has forced the State of Washington to make difficult choices that may jeopardize health care access for Medicaid beneficiaries. I urge the Administration to support increasing the federal Medicaid matching rate in order to prevent the collapse of this critical safety net.
Medicaid Upper Payment Limit
I am growing increasingly concerned that the Administration's proposal to accelerate the phase out of the Medicaid Upper Payment Limit could penalize Washington state. Over the years, states like Washington have used every available dollar to provide quality health care to the most needy. Under your proposal, responsible states like Washington would be penalized. Accelerating the phase out of the Medicaid Upper Payment Limit not only violates a promise we made to these states, but will cause serious harm to beneficiaries. We cannot pull the rug out from under the states when they are struggling to meet the growing needs for health care assistance. I urge the Administration to honor the agreement reached in the previous administration to allow for a phase out of the Medicaid Upper Payment Limit.
Prescription Drug Benefit
We must strengthen Medicare by adding a new, affordable prescription drug benefit. Unfortunately, the President's proposed $190 billion funding level will not adequately address this growing crisis, especially if these dollars are shifted from current Medicare services. Our seniors and the disabled deserve the protection of a prescription drug benefit. The President has honored our commitment to double NIH funding to support research to develop new life saving treatments. Our seniors should benefit from this commitment. Denying access to prescription drug coverage is unwise and unfair.
I am hopeful that this Administration will ultimately provide the resources necessary to truly implement an affordable prescription drug benefit as part of the Medicare defined benefit plan. The proposed $190 billion can only serve as a down payment in meeting the needs of older Americans and the disabled.
The President pointed to the bipartisan ESEA reauthorization bill as a major victory for children and working families. I was proud to work with him to enact this historic legislation. Now, however, we must take the next step and provide for full, mandatory funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If we do not honor the federal commitment to IDEA funding, we shortchange all children and place a greater financial burden on our schools. The President must work with those of us in Congress to achieve this goal -- otherwise the reforms and improvements envisioned in the "Leave No Child Behind" legislation will never be achieved.
The President has promised a significant new increase of funding for border security. I applaud this effort and will work with him to secure the additional funding. However, we must ensure that we do not forget the vital economic relationship we have with Canada, our longstanding ally and our largest trading partner. Commerce and economic exchange at the Northern Border must not be ignored as we seek to achieve our national security goals. Using new technology and additional personnel, we can reduce the delays that threaten our economic relationship with Canada. This will take new resources and a commitment to maintaining these resources. The excessive delays at the Norther Border are causing serious economic harm to many communities in Washington state, exacerbating an already difficult employment situation.
Nuclear Waste Cleanup
The Federal Government has a moral and legal obligation to clean up the nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The waste was generated in our successful effort to win World War II and the Cold War. The sacrifices made by the citizens of the Tri-Cities in this effort are profound. The President must work with us to ensure we meet our financial obligation to clean up the waste. If sufficient resources are not provided, the state of Washington has threatened legal action.
As Congress finishes its work on a new Farm Bill, I urge the Administration to support the funding provided by last year's budget resolution. The Senate Farm Bill restores the safety net for many of our nation's farmers, makes critical new investments in conservation, improves the Food Stamp Program, and enhances opportunities for our rural communities. A stable and productive agricultural and rural economy is essential to Washington state, and I urge the Administration to ensure that its budget reflects this priority.
We must work to recover threatened salmon stocks. I urge the Administration to work with me to provide the necessary federal resources for Northwest salmon recovery. Without a strong federal commitment, the state will be unable to meet the challenges of protecting salmon habitat and restoring these once-abundant runs. Federal resources are a critical component of our national strategy to protect endangered species like the Pacific Northwest salmon.
I realize the President's budget is only the first step in the annual budget process. It will be months before the final product emerges. I ask that throughout the process, you work to reflect these priorities of the people of the Pacific Northwest. I remain committed to working in a bipartisan manner to meet these priorities and objectives.
United States Senator