WASHINGTON – With two more appropriations bills moving through the Senate Appropriations Committee today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley continued to deliver key wins in the appropriations process that will help create jobs in Oregon. Last year, Merkley became the first Oregon Senator to sit on the powerful Appropriations Committee since his mentor Mark Hatfield. He vowed to use his new position to fight for Oregon’s priorities and middle class families.
Today, the full Committee passed two bills: the Commerce, Science and Justice (CJS) and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bills for FY15.
In the two bills, Merkley worked with his colleagues to deliver on Oregon priorities including transportation infrastructure, housing for homeless veterans, coastal priorities, and trade enforcement to protect Oregon jobs now and help build Oregon’s economy for future growth.
“Today’s appropriations bills will provide great opportunities for Oregon and create jobs across the entire state,” said Merkley. “That includes promoting our coastal industries and jobs, creating more housing vouchers for our homeless veterans, boosting trade enforcement against countries like China whose unfair trade practices cost Oregon jobs, and investing in the basic infrastructure that makes our economy tick. I’m fighting for these priorities to create middle class Oregon jobs.”
Key victories in the CJS bill include:
- Cracking Down on Illegal and Unfair Subsidies: Secured an addition $36 million million for the International Trade Administration (ITA), as well as language to direct the ITA to work toward identifying the extent of direct and indirect foreign subsidies, with a particular focus on countries that have been major destinations for outsourced U.S. manufacturing jobs. Discovering the full extent of foreign subsidies is the first step in cracking down on unfair and illegal subsidies that have cost Oregon jobs.
- Boosting American Manufacturing: Secured $141 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to work with small and mid-sized manufacturers to help them create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money.
- Investments in Communities’ Economic Development: Secured $114 million – an $18 million increase over FY14 – for Public Works Grants that support infrastructure projects and communities that need economic development assistance, with up to $5 million set aside for energy efficiency financing programs to create jobs and help small businesses become more energy efficient.
- Bipartisan Industrial Hemp Amendment: Continuing Oregon and Kentucky’s bipartisan partnership on industrial hemp, Senator Merkley worked across the aisle with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to pass a bipartisan amendment requiring the Department of Justice to respect Oregon and Kentucky’s state industrial hemp laws. The amendment will ensure that the states’ research on industrial hemp can continue, with potential jobs and economic benefits. The Committee passed the amendment by a vote of 22-8.
- Protecting Oregon’s Coastal Economy from the Effects of Ocean Acidification: Secured $11 million – a $5 million increase over FY14 – to research ocean acidification. Ocean acidification has had a major impact on Oregon oyster hatcheries, whose baby oysters are dying in more acidic waters, making ocean acidification a major economic and jobs issue for the Oregon Coast.
- Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery: Secured $65 million – a $15 million increase over the President’s budget –to protect, restore and preserve Pacific salmon and create jobs in habitat restoration projects across Oregon.
- Reducing Costs for Oregon Fishermen: Secured language encouraging NOAA to move faster to allow electronic monitoring of fish harvests for Oregon fishermen – an alternative that is much less costly and burdensome than in-person monitoring. Also secured $300,000 to help West Coast trawl fisheries refinance federal loans at lower, more affordable interest rates.
- Supporting the Historic Klamath Basin Agreements: Secured language supporting the historic Klamath Basin agreements for water management by directing NOAA to prioritize fish restoration in river basins where multi-stakeholder agreements are settling litigation and conflict of water rights, including tribal water rights.
Key victories in the THUD bill include:
- Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure: Senator Merkley worked to secure $550 million for TIGER Grants, a key infrastructure investment program, which funds high-impact infrastructure projects through competitive grants.
- Putting Roofs over Veterans’ Heads: Secured $75 million to fund 10,000 additional housing vouchers for homeless veterans. Also secured language to urge HUD to work with the VA and local and national organizations to identify resources that can assist veterans with move-in expenses, which can be an additional roadblock for homeless veterans.
- Expanding Homeownership: Senator Merkley led 15 of his colleagues in pressing for support for this program, which provides grants to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity that help low-income families become homeowners through “sweat-equity” homeownership opportunities. The program was funded at $50 million – a $40 million increase over FY14, and a huge reversal from the President’s budget, which removed all funding from the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program.
- Improving Oil Train Safety: Secured language to improve inspections, tank car design, and training, among other aspects of oil train safety. A large number of oil trains are now running through the Pacific Northwest, with safety regulations that have not caught up to the increase in oil shipments.
- Community Development Block Grants: Secured $3.09 billion – a nearly $200 million increase over the President’s budget – for local governments to invest in critical economic and community development projects.
- Training New Truck Drivers: Secured $2.3 million – a $1.3 million increase over last year’s budget – to support colleges, universities and vocational tech schools in training potential truck drivers, with a focus on helping individuals in economically distressed regions.