WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich joined the Senate in voting 83-16 to pass a bipartisan agreement to fund the government through September 2019, avert another partial government shutdown, and invest in essential New Mexico priorities.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved the bill, and the president has signed it into law.
The funding package includes several measures to benefit New Mexico that Udall and Heinrich successfully championed. It includes a pay increase for federal workers, along with major funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and wildfire suppression, and strong investments in the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, long-distance commuter rail, rural development, public lands, infrastructure, Tribal health and public safety, nutrition, and programs to combat the opioid crisis.
Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the lead Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing funding for the Interior Department, the EPA, and arts and humanities programs, said: “This agreement funds key priorities for New Mexico, while preventing another harmful government shutdown. Too many New Mexicans are still recovering from the Trump shutdown, including the thousands who were furloughed or working without pay, and the countless more across our state who missed out on critical services. This is a bipartisan solution that provides certainty to the families and communities in our state who suffered under President Trump’s shutdown, and includes major wins for New Mexico that will benefit our economy, federal workers, infrastructure, public lands, Tribes, and more.
“As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that writes the budget for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, I championed strong funding for the LWCF to protect New Mexico’s iconic landscapes and for Tribal programs to promote public health and public safety, while fighting off the president’s harmful cuts to critical programs. We also secured a pay increase for federal workers and full funding for PILT to ensure that counties receive every dollar they are owed, along with major funding for the Southwest Chief, childhood nutrition, rural business development, wildfire suppression, initiatives to tackle the opioid epidemic, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. And although it’s not perfect, I’m proud that this deal funds important priorities for communities and working families across New Mexico, who will benefit immensely from these critical investments in our future.”
“While this compromise rejects the vast majority of the president’s wasteful border wall and staves off the worst of his anti-immigrant agenda, it should have done more to hold this administration accountable for its inhumane immigration policies,” Udall continued. “As a border state senator, I flatly reject the false choice between our security and our humanity offered in the president’s out-of-control and xenophobic rhetoric. I’m committed to fighting for humane immigration policies and rigorous oversight of this administration’s detention policies that will make smart investments in border security, keep immigrant families together, and strengthen our border communities.”
“I’m relieved that Congress has passed a bipartisan funding deal to keep the government open. While this process has been far from perfect, we must continue to work together in order to get things done for the American people and New Mexico. This funding bill makes robust investments in our economy, public lands, tribes and critical infrastructure programs,” said Heinrich. “Counties will receive full PILT funding and measures to improve access to public lands and grow New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy, including increasing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, were included in the bill. I’m proud this bipartisan deal also includes funding for the Southwest Chief, increases investments to combat the opioid epidemic and protect faith-based community centers, and prevents essential nutrition programs for children and families from being cut.”
New Mexico highlights from the agreement include:
INTERIOR & ENVIRONMENT
Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) — The bill fully funds payments to counties in New Mexico and across the country through the PILT program. Nationally, payments are estimated at a total of $500 million. It is anticipated that counties across New Mexico will receive more than $42.6 million through the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for Fiscal Year 2018.
Wildfire Suppression — Provides $2.05 billion for fire suppression at the Forest Service and Department of the Interior, an amount which covers the 10-year rolling average of actual firefighting expenditures plus an additional $500 million for the Forest Service in case suppression costs exceed the 10-year average, as they have in recent years.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) — Provides $435 million, an increase of $10 million above the fiscal year 2018 level, for federal land acquisition and conservation grants provided through the LWCF. The president’s budget proposed eliminating LWCF. LWCF is critical for improving recreational access to our federal lands, protecting iconic landscapes in New Mexico to create and protect urban parks and open spaces, and providing farmers and ranchers with easements to allow them to continue to steward their private lands in the face of development pressures.
Cultural Programs — Provides $155 million each to the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, an increase of $2 million more for each endowment than the fiscal year 2018 enacted level, rejecting the administration’s proposal to terminate these programs. These arts and humanities programs help strengthen New Mexico’s creative economy.
Resources to Fight Rising Drought — Provides $1 million for Water Resources to assess transboundary aquifers, providing new information for state and local officials to address pressing water resource challenges in the U.S.-Mexico border region.
Forest Health – $3 million for forest health institutes, including at New Mexico Highlands University, to enhance the U.S. Forest Service’s capacity to execute practical science-based forest restoration treatments that will reduce the risk of severe wildfires, and improve the health of dry forest and woodland ecosystems in the West.
Gold King Mine Water Quality Monitoring — $4 million to continue funding independent water quality monitoring of the San Juan and Animas rivers that were contaminated in the Gold King Mine spill in 2015, in concert with New Mexico, Navajo Nation, and other affected states.
Chaco Canyon — Includes language to express Congress’s support for the delay of the oil and gas lease around Chaco Historical Park until robust tribal consultation and historic preservation studies can be completed.
Acequias and Land Grants — Includes report language requested by Udall and Heinrich that urges the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture Departments to recognize the traditional uses of land grant communities and acequia associations in New Mexico and other states in the American Southwest during the federal land use planning process.
Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge — Includes a directive to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue to support staffing and programming at Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge due to the culmination of a nonprofit grant currently providing funds for these activities.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — Provides $8.849 billion for the EPA, $25 million more than fiscal year 2018 and $2.658 billion more than the president’s budget request. The bill rejects the administration’s proposals to cut research by 45 percent, grants by 48 percent, and enforcement of environmental and public health laws by 25 percent. It also rejects the request to fund large scale buyouts of 3,500 agency scientists and health experts, which would have cut roughly 17 percent of the EPA’s total workforce. The bill maintains funding for the State Revolving Funds at the fiscal year 2018 level, including $1.164 billion for Drinking Water and $1.694 billion for Clean Water.
National Park Service (NPS) — Provides $3.223 billion for the NPS, $20.5 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level and $521 million more than the president’s budget request. The bill also provides $364.7 million to address construction and deferred maintenance needs at national parks, an increase of $5 million above the fiscal year 2018 level.
Tribal Programs — Provides $5.804 billion for the Indian Health Service, $267 million more than fiscal year 2018 and $380 million more than the president’s budget request. The agreement provides $4.103 billion for health care services, an increase of $151 million above the fiscal year 2018 level. Within that amount, the bill funds staffing needs for newly constructed health care facilities and includes $10 million in new funds for grants to tribes to address opioid and substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. Contract support costs are fully funded at an estimated level of $822 million, an increase of $104 million above fiscal year 2018. The agreement provides $358.7 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) construction and maintenance programs, including $238.3 million for education construction requirements. This funding will help address the priority list of replacement schools, which includes three BIE schools in New Mexico.
Tribal Public Health and Opioid Epidemic — Includes $245.6 million for the Indian Health Service (IHS) Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program, including $10,000,000 for an opioid pilot. The bill also maintains $2 million for funding critical social detox programs that serve Native populations, like the Gallup Detox Center in New Mexico.
Tribal Public Safety — Includes $411.5 million, an increase of $6 million, for public safety funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
Indian Arts and Crafts Act Enforcement – Provides $2 million in additional funding for enforcement of federal laws prohibiting the trafficking of counterfeit Native American art in New Mexico and across the country. Udall held an Oversight Field Hearing in Santa Fe on this topic in July 2017.
Office of Surface Mining Tribal Coal Cleanup — $10 million for coal mine reclamation and economic development in Indian Country, including $3.5 million that will go to Navajo Nation to support cleanup and job creation.
Indian Land and Water Claims Settlement — $50,547,000 in funding, which includes full funding for the Navajo Nation water settlement.
AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND NUTRITION
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — Provides $73.2 billion for SNAP, which offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities and is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. In 2017, New Mexico families benefited from approximately $669 million in SNAP funding that reached 461,000 New Mexico residents in 2017, over 20% of the population.
Child Nutrition Programs — Total funding for Child Nutrition Programs is $23.140 billion. Included in this funding is $30 million for school equipment grants and $28 million for Summer EBT.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) — $6.15 billion for WIC programs, which play an important role in ensuring healthy pregnancies and the healthy growth of children. Sufficient funding is provided to meet expected participation. The funding level also provides an increase of $5 million for grants to help remotely connect breastfeeding mothers with lactation consultants and registered dieticians.
Continuation of Grassroots Source Water Protection Program — $6.5 million to help prevent pollution of surface and groundwater used a primary source of drinking water in rural areas, which was eliminated in the president’s budget recommendation
Outreach & Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged & Veteran Farmers & Ranchers Program — $13 million for this popular program in New Mexico was provided through an amendment Udall authored in the committee markup.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) — Provides $79.6 million for TEFAP storage and distribution.
Rural Development — Rejects the president’s proposal to eliminate single family and multi-family housing direct loans and loan and grant programs that promote rural business development and income growth. Funding and program levels for Rural Development are all generally maintained at FY 2018 levels. New Mexico is a significant beneficiary of USDA Rural Development funding.
COMMERCE, JUSTICE AND SCIENCE
Special Counsel Investigation — Includes by reference Udall-authored committee report language, first added to the Fiscal Year 2018 bill, in which the Department of Justice (DOJ) is “directed” to comply with its existing regulations for special counsels, which only allow for dismissal for cause.
Opioid Crisis — Provides a total of $468 million to help combat heroin, fentanyl, and the illegal distribution and use of opioids. The agreement rejects the Administration’s plan to eliminate the anti-heroin task force program within the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, instead providing $32 million, the same amount as the fiscal year 2018 level. The largest part of this funding is $347 million for Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) grants, an increase of $17 million above the fiscal year 2018 funding level, which will support future grants to states and local entities around the country, including New Mexico.
Economic Development Administration — Rejects the administration’s request to eliminate the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and instead provides $304 million for EDA, including $107 million for Public Works grants, $37 million for Economic Adjustment Assistance grants, and $23.5 million for the Regional Innovation Program.
Census Bureau — Provides $3.8 billion for the Census Bureau, an increase of $1 billion above the fiscal year 2018 amount and $21 million above the president’s request. Fiscal Year 2019 is a critical year for the 2020 Census, as field operations startup and partnerships and local relationships are built to get the word out in order to ensure an accurate count and maximize self-response.
Flight Opportunities Program – Provides $20 million to prove space technology concepts using suborbital launches of experiments at a fraction of the cost of orbital research on the International Space Station. Students, researchers, and businesses in New Mexico participate in the Flight Opportunity Program and Spaceport America is home to several launch companies that launch the experiments.
FINANCIAL SERVICES AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Federal Employees — Provides a 1.9 percent cost of living adjustment for federal civilians employees, overriding the president’s threat to eliminate the adjustment in 2019. Thousands of New Mexico federal civilian employees will receive this COLA for 2019.
Small Business Administration (SBA) — Includes $715 million for the SBA to ensure that small businesses have access to financial resources and critical technical assistance. The agreement includes $247.7 million for entrepreneurial development grants, $55 million more than the president’s request. It also provides $131 million for Small Business Development Centers, $18.5 million for Women’s Business Centers, and $11.7 million for the SCORE program.
Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) — Includes $417 million for anti-drug programs, which is $1 million more than the FY 2018 and $388 million more than the president’s budget request. It also rejects the president’s proposal to move the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) programs from ONDCP to other agencies. The HIDTA Program is funded at $280 million, the same level as last year, and is used in New Mexico to combat sophisticated drug smuggling operations.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) — Funds CPSC at $127 million, an increase of $1 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $4 million more than the President’s budget request.
Eliminates Policy Riders — Rejects new harmful policy riders included in the House agreement such as repeal of the Johnson amendment prohibiting non-profits and churches from endorsing political candidates.
Technology Modernization Fund — Allows for the agencies to spend $25 million from prior appropriations on the new fund created by Udall’s bipartisan IT Modernization Act that encourages agencies to pursue more cost-effective IT procurement strategies.
Faith-Based Community Center Protection – Provides an increase of $50 million through Urban Area Security Initiatives for non-profit security and an increase of $10 million through the State Homeland Security Grant program for non-profit security to safeguard faith-based community centers across the United States.
TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Southwest Chief — Provides an additional $50 million in federal funding to help maintain Amtrak train services along the established, long-distance passenger rail route of the Southwest Chief. Udall and Heinrich successfully championed this measure, which would provide resources for maintenance and safety improvements along the Southwest Chief route and would compel Amtrak to fulfill its promise of matching funding for the successful TIGER IX discretionary grant supported by local communities in New Mexico along the route.
TIGER/BUILD — Rejects the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the popular TIGER/BUILD program and instead includes $900 million in funding — $400 million more than fiscal year 2017, $600 million less than fiscal year 2018, and $150 million more than the fiscal year 2019 House bill.
Airport Improvement Program (AIP) — Provides an additional $500 million in general fund resources for AIP grants for airport safety, construction, and noise mitigation, for a total of $3.85 billion. The level of general fund appropriations is $500 million more than fiscal year 2017 for airport construction in New Mexico and around the country.
HUD-VASH Vouchers — Rejects the president’s proposal to eliminate new resources for this program and instead includes $40 million to provide 5,100 new incremental rental vouchers for veterans experiencing homelessness. This level of funding is consistent with the fiscal year 2018 level, and has helped secure permanent housing for many homeless veterans in New Mexico.
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) — Rejects the president’s proposal to eliminate the CDBG program, which provides vital funding for infrastructure, public buildings, housing rehabilitation, and economic development projects, and instead includes $3.3 billion, equal to the fiscal year 2018 level.