Patty in the News

WASHINGTON — Funding for Sound Transit’s University Link project, money to avert layoffs at Hanford nuclear site in Richland and millions of more dollars for salmon conservation and Puget Sound restoration.

Those are among the spending plans for Washington state included in a massive 2014 federal appropriations bill released late Monday.

The spending bill details how to divvy up $1.012 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2014 hashed out last month between Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

As chairs of budget committees in their respective chambers, Murray and Ryan helped set the top-line spending for defense and nondefense discretionary programs for next two years.

The detailed spending proposal based on that blueprint, however, bear Murray’s imprint from her seat on a different panel — the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Murray claimed credit for securing funding for more than three dozen projects and programs reaching into every corner of her home state. They ranged from $2.7 million for potato, alfalfa and forage research that House Republicans had excluded from their appropriations bill to $3 billion to build 16 Boeing P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine aircraft, which will be based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Both the Senate and the House must approve the plan — covering less than 30 percent of the federal outlays not taken up with Medicare, Medicaid and other mandatory programs — that would fund federal agencies through the end of September. Since the 16-day government shutdown in October, Congress has let nearly a third of the current fiscal year pass under stopgap-spending bills.

Many programs in Washington benefited from an agreement by Murray and Ryan to undo much of the automatic spending cuts called sequestration, $109 billion of which was set to kick in this year.

For instance, the spending bill would reverse sequestration-triggered cuts to Sound Transit’s U-Link project, giving it the full $110 million it sought. The light-rail line would run from Westlake to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington, beginning in early 2016.

Rolling back the automatic cuts in part also enabled Murray to help secure $2.15 billion for nuclear-waste cleanup at Hanford. That’s $140.2 million more than with sequestration and may be enough to reduce or prevent 350 Hanford layoffs that had been forecast.

Murray’s spokesman Sean Coit also singled out salmon recovery and Head Start among projects Murray targeted for a funding boost. Some $65 million would be allocated for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, $15 million above what President Obama has proposed.

Head Start preschool programs for lower-income kids would get $8.6 billion, recovering the $1 billion it would have lost under sequestration.

A much smaller funding increase would go to a competitive grant for conservation and recovery projects in the Puget Sound. The spending bill directs $25 million to the Environmental Protection Agency-directed fund, nearly $8 million more than Obama had sought. The money is dispersed to Indian tribes and state and local agencies, including the Puget Sound Partnership.

Democratic freshmen Reps. Denny Heck of Olympia and Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor, co-founders of the Congressional Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, lobbied for the increased money.

- Seattle Times