News Releases

Senator Murray Includes Funding for Urgent Washington State Priorities in Emergency Spending Bill

May 15 2008

President threatens to veto funding included for salmon, rural school districts, Hanford, health care fixes, road repairs, and veterans

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that she has included emergency funding for several critical Washington state needs in the 2008 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations legislation.

"The domestic funding included in this legislation goes to the emergencies we're seeing in our everyday lives – in our economy, schools, hospitals, and homes," said Senator Murray.  "In Washington state, this funding will save jobs, repair roads, care for veterans, and aid our rural communities."

President Bush has threatened to veto the funding Murray has included, and all other domestic spending in the legislation. The Supplemental legislation also includes funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan including reconstruction costs in those countries.  

"The President's threatened veto of these funds is the surest sign of how out of touch he is with the struggles of American families," Murray said. "This is an emergency spending bill. However the President believes the only emergencies worthy of American tax dollars are overseas."

Washington State Priorities

Nuclear Cleanup – $300 million

Senator Murray worked to add $300 million in funding for cleanup efforts at nuclear clean up sites, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, in the bill. The funding would be used to help restore administration cuts to the nuclear cleanup budget and would save up to 600 jobs. The funding would go to the Department of Energy's Environmental Management (EM) program that was created to safely manage the cleanup of nuclear weapons production sites, like Hanford, and focuses on completing clean up of these sites efficiently and effectively. Years of administration cuts to the EM budget have created urgent funding needs at nuclear sites across the country.

"Local jobs and critical cleanup deadlines have been put at risk at Hanford because of administration neglect," said Senator Murray. "This funding is a way to restore some of the shortfall that a has been created through years and years of administration cuts. This funding will also allow us to begin to restore our commitment to Hanford and nuclear cleanup sites across the country."

Secure Rural Schools - $400 million

Senator Murray included a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools program that will keep rural communities from losing irreplaceable funds for schools, roads, and basic services. Without this funding almost 7,000 teachers and other educational staff will be laid off across the country, as of June 30, 2008 when their contracts expire.

"As a former school teacher, I am committed to ensuring that all children have the opportunity to learn, regardless of where they live," said Murray. "This extension will allow our rural communities to move forward with plans to improve education, upgrade roads, and provide critical public services."

Flood Damaged Roads - $451 million

Senator Murray included over $451 million dollars in emergency relief for the repair and reconstruction of roads and bridges that have been damaged by unexpected catastrophes across the country. Washington state will receive over $64 million to help rebuild roads damaged in December's devastating floods – as well as to continue to repair infrastructure damage incurred in the floods of November 2006.

"Washed-out roads have hurt commerce, disrupted families and endangered safety from Southwest Washington to Whatcom County and everywhere in between," said Senator Murray. "It is the responsibility of the federal government to help these communities get back on their feet – and one of the best ways to do that is to help rebuild critical transportation infrastructure."

Fish Disaster Funding – $75 million

Senator Murray included $75 million to alleviate the serious economic impacts related to fishery disasters around the country, including West Coast salmon. The Secretary of Commerce recently declared a federal fishery disaster for West Coast salmon after the Pacific Fishery Management Council closed the entire West Coast fishery this year and estimated $82 million in economic impacts.

"Our commercial and recreational fishing industries are facing closures because of record-low salmon populations," said Senator Murray.  "This funding will help to support our fishing industry which is so critical to our state's overall economic health."

Flood Debris Clearing - $49 million

Senator Murray worked to include $49 million for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) that provides financial assistance to farmers to clean debris off their farms. The ECP program is currently out of funding and farmers - like those devastated in Washington by the 2007 flooding - have been unable to access assistance from this program. This funding will go to the backlog of farmers that are waiting on assistance from this program.

"Many farmers devastated by last December's floods have a huge amount of debris to clean off their land before they can start over," said Senator Murray. "Unfortunately, the federal funding to support debris clean up has run out. The funding included in this legislation will allow more farmers to access this important program and will get them back on their feet and planting crops again."

Medicaid

Senator Murray helped include a provision in the bill that imposes delays on seven Medicaid rules issued by the Bush administration.  The rules would reduce federal payments for public hospitals, teaching hospitals and services for the disabled, among others. Governors across the country, including Governor Gregoire, have asked Senator Murray and members of Congress to delay these rules.

"With state and local government budgets already under serious stress due to the faltering economy, this is not time to shift the burden of millions in health care costs to their budgets," said Senator Murray. "This provision will help safeguard our state from these misguided and ill-timed rule changes."

State and Local Law Enforcement, Byrne Formula Grants -- $490 million

Senator Murray has heard from representatives of law enforcement organizations that the cuts have had an immediate and negative impact on their ability to fight crime and protect communities.  There is strong bi-partisan support for this additional funding.

"All across our state law enforcement officials have told me that they are being asked to do more with less," said Senator Murray. "Byrne Grants are a critical tool our state's law enforcement officials use to fight the spread of meth and gangs. The funding in this legislation will help to restore painful cuts the administration has made to the Byrne Grant program."

Critical Nationwide Veterans Programs

As a member of the Appropriations Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Murray worked to include critical veterans programs in the Emergency Supplemental bill that will benefit veterans in Washington state and across the country.

VA Polytrauma Centers -  $437.1 million

Polytrauma centers are central to inpatient rehabilitation of soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan – particularly those with traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

"VA polytrauma centers are performing medical wonders on some of our most severely injured veterans everyday," said Senator Murray. "This funding will help expand the VA's polytrauma facilities so that more veterans and their families benefit from the high-level care they provide."

GI Education  Assistance

The bill includes a new educational assistance benefit for service members who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001, including activated reservists and National Guard.

"Offering the brave men and women who have served so honorably since September 11 a level of educational benefits on par with those provided to veterans of the World War II era is an effort all Americans can get behind," said Senator Murray. "We want our veterans to have the tools they need to succeed when they return home, and this bill is the most important step in that direction in a generation."

Unemployment Insurance

This legislation also extends unemployment benefits by 13 weeks for all workers nationwide and provides an additional 13 weeks for workers in high-unemployment states.  This extension is critically needed and mirrors actions taken in recent recessions. By extending UI benefits now, Congress can provide an immediate boost for the economy, and at the same time, help working families weather the storm.  Economists agree that extending unemployment benefits is a powerful, cost-effective way to stimulate the economy—every dollar spent on benefits leads to $1.64 in economic growth.