WASHINGTON – Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, said Friday he secured funding for key programs for Oregon in the federal spending bill, passed by the Senate Thursday afternoon. The bill will fund the federal government through the end of September.
“I joined the Senate Appropriations Committee so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making,” Merkley said. “In this appropriations season, I fought hard, alongside my colleagues in the delegation, to ensure that programs important to Oregonians would remain intact.”
Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He currently serves as the top Democrat on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds agriculture, food assistance and rural development programs.
“Trump’s proposed budget was an assault on rural communities’ most basic needs,” he said. “From slashing investment in small business growth and job creation, to threatening access to clean drinking water, to reducing funding to prevent and fight wildfires, the cuts would have hurt farmers, ranchers, children, and timber communities.
“The bill passed yesterday was a rejection of Donald Trump’s vision for the direction of America. With bipartisan support, we have invested in programs that support Oregonians’ health, economy, environment, and economic opportunity.”
The senator fought to include in the omnibus bill funding that supports projects and programs important to Oregon’s rural communities:
· Scroggins Dam: Merkley’s request for $2 million for safety and seismic improvements on the dam was funded.
· Burns Research Station: The Agriculture Research Station in Burns was funded at $2 million, supporting restoration of the sagebrush steppe and ecosystem. The bill also provides nearly $9 million more for sage grouse habitat improvement activities, funding conservation at $68.9 million.
· Contract Towers: With full funding at $159 million, all six Oregon towers that are supported by the program — in Pendleton, Redmond, Klamath Falls, Aurora, Troutdale and Salem — will receive funding.
· Wildfire Management: Merkley requested additional emergency funding for wildfire suppression activities; the bill provided $407 million in emergency funds.
Merkley also ensured programs that support Oregon’s unique economy were funded:
· Advanced Wood Product Research and Development: The program was funded at $3.5 million, supporting innovation of cross-laminated timber and other alternative building materials, including Oregon State University’s groundbreaking work in the field. Merkley also included language in the bill encouraging the Economic Development Agency to work with communities researching and developing new construction technologies in order to continue research on cross-laminated timber.
· Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund: Nearly $390 million in funding for navigation, dredging, and other programs will support projects at Oregon’s small ports — the lifeblood of the state’s coastal economy.
· Sustainable Agriculture and Education: Oregon’s large organic farms significantly benefit from the program, which was funded at $27 million.
· Sea Grant Program: Funded at $63 million, the program, a priority for Oregon State University, uses targeted investment in local communities to create economic growth.
The senator advocated for additional funding for health care and research programs that help rural Oregonians and veterans:
· State Offices of Rural Health: A funding bump to $10 million supports the program, through Oregon Health and Science University, that works to improve the quality, availability and accessibility of health care for rural Oregonians.
· National Institute of Nursing Research: The National Institutes of Health program was funded with an additional $3.8 million, supporting health promotion and disease prevention through basic and clinical research, including at Oregon Health and Science University.
· Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program: Merkley included Acute Lung Injury and Tuberculosis, which affects veterans, in the $300 million program to support research by Oregon Health and Science University.
Merkley won funding for conservation projects that help both the environment and irrigators:
· U.S. Forest Service: Full funding for the U.S. Forest Service Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program will bring millions of dollars to three national forest restoration projects in Oregon. Merkley also included language in the bill directing USDA to identify finance methods that could leverage non-federal resources for forest health restoration projects on private and public lands, while also increasing water quality and supply.
· Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations: Thanks to Merkley’s leadership on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, this program was funded for the first time since 2010. At $150 million, the funding includes projects that benefit wildlife and irrigation. These funds will substantially assist Central Oregon irrigators with water conservation projects that benefit spotted frog preservation while ensuring farmers and ranchers in the region get the water they need for their operations.
And the senator worked to preserve funding critical to rural Oregon’s infrastructure and community services, housing, and economic development:
· Public Work Grants: The popular $100 million program was fully funded, giving Oregon’s rural communities and economic development agencies access to funding for rebuilding necessary infrastructure in economically depressed communities.
· Rural Housing Service: A $32.8 million funding increase for the agency helps address a major rural affordable housing funding crisis that had threatened Oregon’s affordable housing providers, like Chrisman Development in Wallowa County. Merkley led a request to the Housing subcommittee to support $2.6 billion in homeless assistance grants, and the bill funded most of the ask, at $2.4 billion.
· Payments In Lieu of Taxes: The program was fully funded, protecting nearly $19 million that goes to Oregon counties that have large tracts of federal lands that don’t generate property taxes.
· TIGER Grants: Merkley fought to preserve some $500 million in funding for this critical transportation grants program, which has helped fund projects like the Coos Bay Rail Link rehabilitation.