Washington, DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured investments in a wide range of Oregon priorities in the federal spending bill passed by the Senate today. The provisions championed by Merkley will help put Oregonians to work in the woods reducing the threat of wildfires, ensure the maintenance and availability of business-critical infrastructure like ports, airports, roads, and bridges, and help veterans returning from war with job searches and mental health care.
The bipartisan bill will also reverse the damaging sequester cuts to Head Start that had kicked more than 800 Oregon students off of the program, and allow an additional 90,000 kids nationwide to enroll in Early Head Start. Restoring funding to Head Start has been a priority of Merkley’s.
“As a member of the Appropriations Committee, it is my job to fight for Oregon’s priorities and Oregon’s number one priority is making sure middle class families have good-paying jobs,” Merkley said. “I’m pleased to have helped secure investments for our timber communities, our ports, high-tech manufacturing, and our veterans.”
“In addition, expanded investment in Head Start and k-12 education will be valuable for our young children and their over-crowded school districts.”
The Administration had pushed to cut the hazardous fuels reduction program, which was already significantly underfunded. At the same time, fires are becoming bigger and more intense. Merkley pushed to get as much hazardous fuels funding as possible, and he succeeded in funding this program at $150 million above what the President requested in his budget.
Because of spending cuts at the Federal Aviation Administration from the sequester, control towers at five of Oregon’s airports, North Bend, Pendleton, Salem, Portland-Troutdale and Klamath Falls, were to be shuttered. Merkley fought to ensure that the control towers at these and other small airports remain open.
Yellow Ribbon Integration Program
The Yellow Ribbon Integration Program has been successful in preventing veteran suicides and connecting veterans to jobs when they come home – two issues that are very important to Oregon’s military families. The President had eliminated this program in his budget request, and Merkley fought successfully to maintain it.
Small ports are the lifeblood of our coastal communities, and without funding for channel maintenance and dredging, they could wither away. Unfortunately, without a dedicated funding stream, small ports often have trouble competing with larger ports for grants. Merkley fought for and secured $40 million in dedicated funding for small ports. In Fiscal Year 2013, there was no dedicated funding, and in Fiscal Year 2012 there was $30 million.
Smart infrastructure investments make our roads, bridges, and ports safer and allow our businesses to remain competitive in the global economy. Merkley fought for the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, which provides grants for communities to improve costly surface transportation needs. TIGER grants helped replace the dilapidated Sellwood Bridge and make improvements at the Port of Garibaldi, for example.
The “New Starts” program funds new transit services to improve access and ease commutes. Both the Portland-Milwaukie light rail project and the Lane Transit District’s Em-X project rely on New Starts, for which Merkley helped to secure $1.943 billion.