Bill to fund government restores COLA funding for disabled veterans, includes $75 million for fishery disaster relief, investments in Shipyard
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced today that the bipartisan appropriations bill unveiled last night will both promote economic growth and include many key measures she has championed in recent months. The legislation will specifically keep the government funded through Fiscal Year 2014, repeal many of the reckless sequester budget cuts, and promote job creation and economic growth.
The bill builds on the bipartisan budget agreement passed in December and makes investments in many New Hampshire priorities, including:
- Disaster relief funding for New England fisherman
- A fix to a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for disabled veterans
- Military construction resources for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
- Resources to complete the activation of the Federal Corrections Institution (FCI) in Berlin
- Funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The legislation also rolls back wasteful spending including taxpayer funded expenditures on oil paintings of public officials. Senators Shaheen and Tom Coburn (R-OK) drew attention to this waste of taxpayer dollars by introducing bipartisan legislation last year designed to cut these expenditures. The legislation also requires all federal agencies to become better stewards of taxpayer dollars by implementing mandatory 10 percent cuts to overhead costs and by investing in Inspectors General offices as Shaheen has fought for. This effort will help agencies better identify waste and cut spending through audits and oversight.
“This bipartisan appropriations bill makes strategic investments in our economy that will help create jobs while also preventing another government shutdown and repealing some of the sequester cuts that hurt economic growth,” Shaheen said. “Now we have to keep up the bipartisan momentum to pass this bill and additional job-creating measures.”
The appropriations bill, negotiated by the House and Senate, includes a partial fix to COLA adjustments in order to protect disabled veterans. Last month Shaheen introduced the Military Retirement Restoration Act to protect all future military retirees from the COLA cuts passed in a bipartisan budget agreement in December. Shaheen’s legislation would restore the cuts and replace the savings by eliminating a tax loophole for American corporations that use offshore tax havens, a move that would generate an estimated $6.6 billion in savings.
“This bill also takes a good step toward correcting the cuts to military retiree benefits,” Shaheen said. “I hope we can continue in this direction and vote on my plan to restore all of the adjustments as soon as possible on behalf of the people who have served our country.”
The funding package also invests in New Hampshire defense priorities, authorizing $1.6 billion toward the continued development of the new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker to be based at Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire as well as $11.5 million for new military construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. In addition, the bill funds the Beyond Yellow Ribbon Program, which connects servicemen and women and their families with community support, training, and other services, at $13 million. Also included in the package is funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which will help modernize the way the U.S. meets challenges posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction, at $500 million.
“New Hampshire plays an important role in our national defense and this bill rightfully makes strategic investments to support our shipyard, our economy, and our men and women in uniform,” said Shaheen, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support.
Additional measures included in the funding bill are $75 million toward fishery disaster relief, $3.425 billion for LIHEAP, and $6.9 billion to the Bureau of Prisons, which is sufficient to complete the activation of the Berlin Prison that is expected to create 340 local jobs and provide a $40 million economic boost to Northern New Hampshire.
Shaheen has repeatedly advocated for Congress to support New Hampshire fishermen and other states affected by declining fish populations and consequent economic losses by authorizing disaster relief.
“Fishing is one of our state’s oldest industries and remains a critical engine of our economy,” said Shaheen. “The resources in this bill will provide necessary support for fishermen and coastal communities who are struggling during difficult times.”
Funding for LIHEAP in this bill is a $169 million increase from FY 2013 levels, for a total of $3.425 billion. The program helps seniors and low income households in New Hampshire with home heating costs and has become particularly critical in recent years as the struggling U.S. economy and high energy prices and reduced LIHEAP funding have forced more Americans to go without this critical assistance. Shaheen has been a strong supporter of LIHEAP throughout her time in the Senate and was recently part of a successful bipartisan effort to encourage Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to expedite the release of LIHEAP funds, allowing those in need to receive assistance as soon as possible.