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As Budget Battle Ends, Union Leader Says Congress Must Do Better by Working Families

AFGE President calls for meaningful pay raise for federal employees in 2017

WASHINGTON – As Congress finishes work on an omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, the head of the nation’s largest federal employee union says Congress must do a better job next year of putting the needs of working families ahead of partisan politics.

“Limping to the finish line with a budget who’s only redeeming trait is the absence of harmful workforce provisions is hardly a reason to pop the champagne cork,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“Congress needs to put aside the partisan bickering and grandstanding and pass a budget next year that will provide federal employees with a meaningful pay raise so the government can begin closing the widening pay gap between employees in the federal and private sectors, which now stands at 35%.”

Federal employees will receive a 1% across-the-board pay raise in January and a 0.3% average locality increase. AFGE supported House and Senate legislation to provide employees with a 3.8% pay raise in 2016.

“Federal employees are proud to serve their country and support the mission of their agency, and they deserve to be fairly compensated and valued for the work that they do,” Cox said.

Cox thanked lawmakers including a provision in the omnibus bill that continues the ban on contracting out federal jobs without fair and open competitions. He also recognized Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland for getting language inserted into the bill to expand credit monitoring and liability protection for the millions of employees and family members whose private information was stolen during the massive OPM data breaches.

The omnibus bill includes an additional $356 million for the Social Security Administration, which will help the agency begin to recover from years of budget cuts that have degraded service delivery for seniors and other beneficiaries. The bill also includes an additional $133.5 million for Bureau of Prisons operations. Yet the bill also flatlines funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, whose budget is lower than it was in 2010, and keeps the size of the EPA workforce at its lowest level since 1989.

Another provision in the bill will dramatically improve safety for correctional officers in our federal prisons by requiring the Bureau of Prisons provide a second officer in the housing units of high-security federal prisons, so officers guarding violent inmates will no longer have to serve alone.

The separate tax extender bill will provide federal employees and all other workers a much-needed boost in their transit subsidies, permanently matching the level of pre-tax transit benefits to pre-tax benefits for parking. For 2016, that means employees will be able to set aside $255 a month in pre-tax earnings for public transportation expenses.

Senator Shaheen Votes For CROmnibus Bill While Objecting To Certain Provisions

Immediate Release:

Legislation funds the government while making strategic investments in job creation and economic growth in New Hampshire

(Washington, DC) – Tonight U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) voted in favor of a bipartisan appropriations bill that funds most government operations through the 2015 fiscal year.

“The spending bill we passed tonight invests in strategic priorities that will support job creation, economic growth and our national security,” said Shaheen. “It is far from perfect, but it is the product of a bipartisan compromise that in my mind was better than any alternative. I’m disappointed by certain provisions included in this bill – including the rolling back of important taxpayer protections from risky behavior on Wall Street. But I’d rather pass this imperfect, bipartisan compromise now, than face a partisan Republican bill next year, one that would be more at odds with the priorities I believe best serve New Hampshire’s economy and middle-class families. This legislation will help to continue our economic growth and avert another costly government shutdown.”

Shaheen provisions and priorities included in the final spending bill include:

New Hampshire’s Economy

The bill includes funding for another round of State Trade Export Promotion (STEP) grant program. The STEP program, which Shaheen helped create, is an export initiative that helps states assist small businesses to enter and succeed in the international marketplace. The bill also provides funding to complete the activation of the Berlin Prison which will boost the economy in Northern New Hampshire. Shaheen has fought for the opening of the prison since its funding became at risk and has continued to be a leader in the fight to fully open the facility. She has repeatedly pressed Congress and the Obama Administration to prioritize funding and has highlighted the economic boost the prison would have on one of the most economically distressed areas of the state. The facility is expected to create 340 local jobs and provide a $40 million economic boost to Northern New Hampshire.

Pease Air National Guard Base and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

The spending bill includes funding for the new KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker that will be housed at Pease Air National Guard base in New Hampshire. The new tankers will replace the Air Force’s current fleet of 1950’s era KC-135s, and Pease – home to the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing – is slated to be the first Air National Guard unit to receive the next generation tanker in fiscal year 2018. Shaheen has advocated for Pease to receive the tanker since 2011, and last year, announced that the Air Force had designated Pease as the first Air National Guard unit to receive the KC-46A.

The bill also includes $41 million in infrastructure upgrades to prepare the Pease Air National Guard Base for the new tankers, as well investments in further energy efficiency upgrades at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which will reduce costs and improve performance at the shipyard.

Veterans

The spending bill also provides support for service men and women and addresses issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill increases funding for the Beyond Yellow Ribbon Program, which connects service men and women and their families with community support, training, and other services, by $15 million.

The bill also supports job opportunities for veterans by incorporating several of Shaheen’s veteran small business priorities included in her legislation the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act. The bill includes fee waivers for veteran small business owners applying for Small Business Association (SBA) loans who are looking for loans to start or expand their small businesses. The bill also makes important investments to continue reducing the backlog of veterans’ benefits and appeals claims.

Peace Corps

The bill gives victims of rape who serve in the Peace Corps health care equity by providing them with health care coverage to terminate a pregnancy. Peace Corps volunteers will now receive the same basic health care benefits provided to other women on federal health care plans.

Heroin Abuse Intervention Funding

The bill will help local communities in New Hampshire address the growing heroin abuse crisis. It provides critical resources for communities by setting aside $7 million to strengthen law enforcement efforts in states with high incidences of heroin abuse. Shaheen has been working with local, state and federal officials as well as law enforcement and public health experts to identify ways to address the growing heroin and prescription drug problem in New Hampshire. Earlier this year, she announced Drug Free Communities (DFC) Support Program funding for New Hampshire, which will educate young people about the dangers of drug abuse to ultimately reduce youth substance use. The Senate Appropriations Committee also unanimously adopted several provisions Shaheen proposed and which were a direct result of her outreach with federal, state and local officials along with public health and treatment professionals.

Children and Families

The spending bill invests in important programs for children in New Hampshire such as Head Start, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Child Care and Development Block Grant program.  It allocates $430 million for the Violence Against Women Act, which is a record level of funding.  These resources are critical to providing the support needed by the millions of women who are the victims of violence.

Rep Shea-Porter Votes For Omnibus Budget Bill Ending Threat Of Shutdown

Shea-Porter Supports Bipartisan Appropriations Bill to Invest in New Hampshire and Avert a Government Shutdown

Compromise spending bill would restore COLA funding for disabled veterans and alleviate some of sequestration’s reckless cuts to NH’s economy

Legislation includes key funding for PNSY, NH National Guard, Granite State Veterans, Seacoast Fishermen, LIHEAP, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and First Responders

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3547, an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through Fiscal Year 2014. The legislation earned the support of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) because it prevents another government shutdown and invests in New Hampshire’s economy and programs vital to the middle class.

“I think it’s shameful that this omnibus bill did not include emergency unemployment insurance and only partially restores the COLA adjustment for military retirees, but I voted for this bill because it’s a bipartisan compromise that invests in New Hampshire’s economy, keeps our post offices open, and reverses some of sequestration’s damaging cuts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the New Hampshire National Guard, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, LIHEAP, and other vital programs,” Shea-Porter said.

“This legislation ensures that Congress won’t repeat another costly government shutdown, but it is far from perfect. It only repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors because my amendment to fully repeal the cuts was not accepted by the Republican-controlled Rules Committee. However, this bill is a modest step down the long road towards growing our economy and governing responsibly,” Shea-Porter said.

H.R.3547 adheres to the compromise funding levels agreed to in Bipartisan Budget Act, legislation which passed in December. As mandated by the bipartisan budget agreement, it includes a total of $1.012 trillion in regular defense and non-defense discretionary funding.

This bill makes significant strategic investments in New Hampshire, and includes a number of measures championed by Shea-Porter. Highlights follow.

AVERTS A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

·         The compromise $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill would fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2014, thus keeping the government open. The legislation passed the House of Representatives 359-67 earlier today, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill tonight. President Obama urged swift passage of the legislation, which needs to be signed by January 18, 2014 in order to prevent another government shutdown.

PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD

·         The bill provides $11.5 million for new military construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The legislation also includes a strong mark in favor of submarine programs – fully funding the second 2014 Virginia class submarine, preserving funding for the Virginia Payload Module, and continuing development of the Ohio Replacement.  Congresswoman Shea-Porter and other members of the House New England delegation advocated for full funding of these submarine programs.

NEW HAMPSHIRE NATIONAL GUARD

·         KC-46A Tanker:  The legislation appropriates $1.6 billion to fully fund continued development of the KC-46A air refueling tanker. Shea-Porter has strongly supported bringing the KC-46A to Pease. In the 110th Congress, she secured almost $9 million in funding to build a new facility for the WING Headquarters Operations and Training facility at the base. In the 111th Congress, she also secured $10 million to help the 157th Operations Group, which is responsible for the air refueling mission, consolidate its components into a single building, thus improving its command communications and overall efficiency of operations. In March, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter toured the Pease Air National Guard base to meet with Air Force and Air Guard leaders and show her continued support for Pease and the 157th Air Refueling Wing as the Air Force evaluated final candidates to receive the KC-46A tanker. Prior to that, Congresswoman Shea-Porter joined New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation in sending a letter to the Air Force Chief of Staff expressing support for the selection of Pease.

·         National Guard equipment procurement: The bill exceeds full funding for National Guard and Reserves equipment.

DEFENSE, VETERANS, AND WOUNDED WARRIORS

·         Veterans Backlog: The bill appropriates $320 million to deal with the claims backlog at the Veterans Administration. Shea-Porter has worked consistently to reduce the Veterans Administration’s (VA) disability claims backlog. In October, she voted in favor of bipartisan reforms to help reduce the backlog.

·         Veterans Homelessness: The bill fully funds the President’s request for $10,000 new veterans’ housing vouchers at $75 million.

·         PTSD Therapy: The bill contains Shea-Porter’s bipartisan amendment to provide $4 million in funding for an innovative dog-training therapy program that is a safe, effective, non-drug intervention to treat the symptoms of PTSD and TBI in returning service members. Shea-Porter championed the program along with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). The amendment was fully paid for.

·         Retired Military COLA: The omnibus appropriations legislation repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors.  Yesterday, Shea-Porter offered an amendment to fully repeal reductions in the military retiree cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that were included in the Bipartisan Budget Act.

·         TRICARE: The legislation includes $218 million increase for the TRICARE health insurance program for military personnel, military retirees and their dependents, to protect beneficiaries against increases in out-of-pocket costs. Shea-Porter included  language in the National Defense Authorization Act would help military families receive access to alternative physical therapies under the TRICARE program.

·         Wounded Warriors: The legislation includes $585.6 million for prosthetic research, which is $3.5 million above the 2013 enacted level.

·         Military Pay Raise: The agreement would fund a requested 1 percent pay raise for members of the Armed Forces and the DOD civilian workforce.

·         Defense and Small Business: Exceeds full funding by $175 million for the Defense Rapid Innovation Program to incorporate small business developments into Department of Defense programs.

DISASTER RELIEF AND FIRST RESPONDERS

·         Federal Emergency Management Agency: The bill allocates $6.2 billion for disaster relief – fully funding FEMA’s stated requirement. The bill also provides a total of $2.5 billion for first responder grants, $39 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, including:

o   $1.5 billion for state and local grants,

o   $680 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants, and

o   $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

o   Additionally, the bill includes a House amendment that delays certain premium increases in the National Flood Insurance Program.

EDUCATION

·         TRIO: 95 percent of the sequestration cuts to TRIO were restored. Congresswoman Shea-Porter has been a leading advocate of investments in effective programs such as TRIO. In June, she led a group of 21 Representatives in sending a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that Federal TRIO Programs be protected from further cuts under sequestration in Fiscal Year 2014.

·         K-12 Funding: The $625 million increase in Title I funds over post-sequester funding levels will help support an additional 1 million students, and the $498 million increase over post-sequester funding for IDEA grants will cover the costs of an additional 6,000 special education staff.

·         Head Start: The bill restores the Head Start sequestration cuts and gives grantees a 1.3 percent cost-of-living increase.  Allows the Education Department and HHS to jointly administer a new $250 million competitive grant program for states to develop or expand high-quality preschool programs for low-income families.  In addition, the bill provides a $36 million boost to the Child Care Block Grant program for a total of $2.36 billion.

·         Pell Grants: The maximum annual award, which still must be confirmed by the Education Department and is based on inflation, is likely to rise by $85 to $5,730.

INFRASTRUCTURE

·         New Hampshire Rail: The bill restores funding for the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail line that runs through New Hampshire’s Seacoast. Under previous appropriations bills, funding would have expired. By sending two letters to the Department of Transportation, Shea-Porter and the New England delegation worked toward restoration of the $6 million a year in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding that supports this critical regional infrastructure.

·         Highways: The bill includes a $557 million increase to Highway funding above the FY 2013 amount.

LIHEAP

·         The legislation includes $3.425 billion in funding for LIHEAP, a $169 million increase over FY 2013 levels. As Granite Staters face another cold winter, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has repeatedly called on Congress to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In April, she sent a bipartisan letter requesting that funding for LIHEAP be authorized at a level of $5.1 billion in FY2014.

MEALS ON WHEELS

·         The omnibus bill contains a $41 million increase for Meals on Wheels, a nutrition program for seniors. Shea-Porter has visited Meals on Wheels in New Hampshire and has spoken out about the fact that under sequestration, Meals on Wheels programs were forced to cut, on average, 364 meals per week and have increased their waiting lists on average by 58 seniors.

NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHERMEN

·         Disaster Relief: $75 million will be allocated toward fishery disaster, thanks to this legislation. Shea-Porter has been a vocal supporter of this program. In early 2013, Shea-Porter wrote to Speaker of the House John Boehner and cosponsored an amendment to reinstate disaster aid.

PRIVACY

·         National Security Agency (NSA): Today’s Appropriations bill would require the National Security Agency to provide Congress the number of phone records collected and reviewed during the last five years, including an estimate of the number belonging to U.S. citizens. The agency would also have to provide an unclassified report describing all spy programs that collect bulk data, including the cost of the programs and what type of records are being collected or what kind of data the agency plans to collect in the future. Shea-Porter has been an outspoken critic of the dragnet collection of data by government agencies. She has called for increased transparency, oversight, and accountability over domestic surveillance.

US POSTAL SERVICE

·         Saturday Mail: The legislation forbids ending Saturday mail or closing rural post offices. Shea-Porter is a cosponsor of H.Res 30, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the Postal Service should maintain six-day delivery. She believes the US Postal Service is a vital resource for communities in New Hampshire and that eliminating Saturday mail delivery would hurt consumers and fail to adequately address the issues facing the United States Postal Service.

The bill shamefully does not include an extension of emergency unemployment compensation, an issue that Shea-Porter has repeatedly raised with Speaker Boehner and her colleagues. Today, Congresswoman Shea-Porter requested unanimous consent to end Republican’s refusal to allow a vote on extending emergency unemployment compensation.

“It is deeply disappointing that Republicans in Washington continue to block a vote to renew emergency unemployment compensation and help job-seekers in New Hampshire,” Shea-Porter said. “This is not the end of the line. I’ll continue to fight for a jobs bill and an extension of emergency unemployment insurance for those looking for work.”

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