Begich Protects Alaska Priorities in Appropriations Committee
Brings Millions to Alaska Communities for Protecting Fisheries, Public Safety, and More
U.S. Senator Mark Begich today secured important funding for Alaska in two bills passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, including research to keep Alaska fisheries thriving, programs for victims of domestic abuse, and support to keep rural airports open.
Begich, a member of the Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, noted that the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice and Science and FY 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills include funding Alaska priorities such as strengthening local economics, putting more law enforcement officers into local communities, and creating Alaska jobs.
“All Alaskans will benefit from these bills—from research to better understand how ocean acidification affects our fisheries to providing more bulletproof vests for law enforcement officers,” said Begich. “Rural communities will have funding for better housing and better law enforcement. I’m pleased these bills have passed this important step and will now go to the Senate floor for consideration.”
The bill also includes funding for a number of provisions included in Begich’s Crime Initiative; including Department of Justice funding that will bolster law enforcement through targeted investments in hiring, equipment and other efforts. While both bills propose increased funding for several provisions that would affect Alaska, Begich noted that significant cuts have been made to eliminate wasteful spending and focus on the issues and programs that matter most to Alaskans.
“One of the reasons I fought so hard to be on the Appropriations committee is because of the wide-ranging impact you can have on delivering for Alaska—the bill we passed out of committee today is the perfect example,” said Begich. “From protecting our fisheries, to providing resources for victims of domestic violence, and supporting our rural communities we are one step closer today to pumping millions of dollars in smart investments into Alaska communities.”
Specific provisions inserted into the legislation by Begich include:
- $65 million for Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund—a $15 million increase over the President’s Budget
- $430 million for Violence Against Women Act programs
- $19 million for Victims of Child Abuse
- $376 million for Byrne JAG – allows states and local communities to use evidence-based solutions to address needs in the criminal justice system including preventing, enforcement and prosecution
- $155 million for Essential Air Services—an increase of $6 million to ensure 44 communities in rural Alaska have a minimal level of scheduled service
- $7.1 million for the Maritime Guaranteed Loan Program (Title XI Loans)—a $4 million increase over the President’s budget to help finance construction and maintenance of certain vessels and shipyard modernization and technology.
- $70 million for Indian Community Block Grant—to be used in developing viable Indian and Alaska Native communities, including decent housing, a suitable living environment, and economic opportunities, primarily for low- and moderate-income persons.
- $7.5 million for Landing and Navigation at Remote Airport—directs the FAA to prioritize the funding for communities that rely on aviation for basic transportation needs.
Other approved items in the legislation include:
The Fiscal Year 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Bill: The legislation primarily funds the Justice Department, the Department of Commerce and scientific efforts, including NASA and the NIS. At a total of $51.2 billion, it is a decrease of $398 million from current-year appropriations.
- Increases overall funding for marine resource research and management by $24 million over last year’s level, and by $105 million in total spread through all of NOAA’s programs.
- Provides $25 million and direction to NOAA to assess hydrographic and navigation needs for the increasing shipping through the Bering Straits and Arctic.
- Provides direction for NOAA to prioritize cleanup of marine debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami event.
- Calls out for greater agency transparency with Saltonstall-Kennedy Act funds and importantly, requires 10 percent off total annual funds to be put towards the competitive grant program, which historically benefits Alaska-based projects.
- Directs NOAA to expand use of chartered vessels for fishery stock assessment surveys, the primary method of fishery research in Alaska waters.
- Directs NOAA to accelerate use of electronic monitoring technologies to replace the need for human fishery observers on Alaska’s small boat fishing fleets and importantly, to release certain categories of small vessels voluntarily equipped with electronic monitoring from the burden of carrying human observers.
- Provides $30.302 million for Salmon Management Activities.
- Provides $11 million for Integrated Ocean Acidification – a $5 million increase over the FY14 enacted level.
- Provides $476.36 million for Local Warnings and Forecast Base – $6.7 million over FY15 enacted level. Report language prevents the Administration’s proposed termination of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Programs.
- Provides $40 million for Regional Climate Data and Information – $12.3 million increase over FY14. A portion of this is directed for NOAA’s Arctic Research Program.
- Provides $71.6 million for Coastal Science, Assessment, Response and Restoration – $2.8 million increase over FY14 level.
- NOAA funding to recapitalize aging fleet: The bill takes the important step of requiring the agency to provide the Committee with acquisition plans for vessel replacement. The Committee directed NOAA to expand the use of charter vessels to perform fishery stock assessment surveys. In the North Pacific, use of charter fishing vessels is the primary method for conducting critical stock assessments.
- Provides $224 million for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) –$10 million above the FY14 enacted level requested by Sen. Begich for hiring cops in local communities.
- $23 million for Bulletproof Vests Partnership Program to improve equipment and protect law enforcement
The Fiscal Year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill: The legislation primarily funds the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. At a total of $54.4 billion, the legislation is just $4 million above current-year spending for transportation and housing programs.
- FAA Process for Hiring Air Traffic Controllers – This bill includes a provision which will allow applicants who made it onto FAA’s air traffic control hiring inventory to apply again, even if they aged out of the process last year. This is only fair given the abrupt change in air traffic controller hiring practices. This will help Alaska Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) students who had already advanced in the FAA hiring process and were then unfairly turned away. The report language also requires the FAA to consider its partnership with CTI schools more seriously, including the CTI school at University of Alaska Anchorage, and invite their input when contemplating significant policy changes that would affect their students.