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Local Lawmakers Laud Federal Spending Bill

U.S. Capitol domeArlington’s members of Congress are touting wins for federal workers, veterans, Metro and the Virginia economy in a new federal spending bill.

The bill, a rare bipartisan budget compromise, passed both houses of Congress this morning. It includes a raise for the federal workforce, $150 million for WMATA, $30 million for Arlington National Cemetery, and billions for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and various other military spending priorities.

The office of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) described it as “good news for federal employees” in a press release.

There is finally some good news for federal employees in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this morning.  The $1.1 trillion spending package included a pay raise for federal employees and service members, as well as significant additional funding for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), some of which is earmarked for cybersecurity.

“Federal employees suffered through enough with years of wage stagnation, furloughs and shutdowns, and, perhaps most egregiously, the theft of their personal information as a result of the OPM hacks,” said Rep. Beyer.  “In addition to cybersecurity investments to prevent future breaches, this deal gives our federal workforce a modest 1.3 percent pay raise for the second year in a row.”

“These efforts will help improve the recruitment and retention of federal employees to help our government grow the new American economy,” Beyer added.

The agreement provides $272 million for OPM and the OPM Inspector General, a $132 million increase over the previous year. The legislation also provides $21 million for critical upgrades to OPM’s cybersecurity infrastructure and to ensure protections to prevent similar security breaches are installed. Individuals affected by the OPM data breaches will be provided with identity protection coverage for 10 years — much more than the previous commitment —  and identity theft insurance in the amount of $5,000,000.

After the jump, a joint press release from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, including details of specific spending and tax provisions of note for Virginia residents, businesses and federal workers.

U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which provides discretionary funding for the entire federal government for the next fiscal year.

“The bipartisan budget deal helped pave the way for this legislation, which restores some of the most harmful sequester cuts and provides certainty to our military and to Virginia shipyards. It provides much-needed additional resources to improve cybersecurity across the federal government, including the Office of Personnel Management, and it gives the federal workforce and our federal retirees additional peace of mind of knowing that victims of the OPM hack can count on extended identity theft protection,” Warner said.  “While the bipartisan package supports many programs and priorities which are important to Virginians, I remain concerned that this legislation does little to address our nation’s longer-term fiscal challenges. I certainly hope the spirit of bipartisanship displayed by passage of this imperfect budget bill will result in a more fiscally responsible approach to budget issues in the new year.”

“I’m pleased this bill addresses arbitrary budget caps set by sequestration, invests in Virginia’s shipbuilders so they have certainty and stability and lends a helping hand to middle- to low-income families trying to make ends meet. Additionally, this bill provides full funding for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC), which will be located at Fort Pickett, in recognition of the essential need to provide our diplomatic personnel the training they need to represent the United States in dangerous places overseas.  Though this bill isn’t perfect, I chose to support it because it funds programs that are critical to our nation’s security and success, and it will allow federal agencies to plan ahead. Most importantly, this is a compromise that will give budget certainty to families and businesses. The bipartisan character of this agreement will hopefully encourage more such cooperation,” Kaine said.

The following list includes many of the provisions Warner and Kaine advocated for on behalf of Virginia that were included in the Appropriations bill:

Navy Shipbuilding: The bill includes $18.7 billion for Navy shipbuilding and initiates the funding for construction of 11 new ships. The bill also continues the funding for the construction of the Ford-class air craft carriers, over $5 billion for construction of Virginia-class submarines, two destroyers, one amphibious ship and $1.4 billion for Ohio-class replacement submarines.

Military Construction: The bill provides $8.2 billion for military construction projects.  These funds support construction and renovation projects at military bases across the globe, including more than $450 million for 19 projects in Virginia. This includes $43.9 million for an Embassy Security Guard Housing and Operations Center in Quantico, $75 million for a Communications Center in Norfolk, $30 million for Arlington National Cemetery, $28 million for a Fuel Pier and Distribution Facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, $29 million for a National Guard and Reserve Center in Richmond, $24 million for an Equipment Facility at Fort A.P. Hill and $4 million in road improvements and a welcome center on Wallops Island.

Defense Operations and Maintenance: The bill includes $167 billion for operations and maintenance, including $39.6 billion for Navy Operations and Maintenance, a critical account for maintaining the readiness of naval assets and supporting Virginia’s ship repair industry. The bill also includes over $281 million in additional funding for commissaries and $608.6 million in additional funding that helps the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines begin recovering from readiness shortfalls due to more than a decade of sustained combat operations further complicated by sequestration.

Embassy Security: The bill provides $99 million for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) pending a cost benefit analysis, which has already been completed. The funding represents strong Congressional support and recognition of the need to better protect our U.S. Embassy personnel in a heightened global threat environment. A GAO study released in September concluded that Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Virginia meets all four key requirements for a new facility. This followed a 2012 report from the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, an independent panel convened in the wake of the tragedy that recommended urgently moving forward with FASTC at Fort Pickett and a review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that resulted in the same conclusion – that Fort Pickett is the best site.

FBI Headquarters: The bill includes $390 million to begin the initial design, engineering and construction of a new fully funded consolidated headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). A site in Springfield is one of three under consideration by the General Services Administration for the new FBI headquarters.

Wallops Flight Facility, Langley Research Center & National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): The bill funds NASA at $19.28 billion, an increase of $1.27 billion above the FY15 enacted level. Within this total, the bill provides at least $7 million in FY16 appropriated funds for NASA Wallops to improve spaceport infrastructure through the 21st Century Launch Complex program. It also includes $389 million for overall NASA construction, which will allow NASA Langley to begin construction on a new state-of-the-art measurement systems lab.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS): This bill funds UAS research at $17.6 million, a $5 million increase from last year, which will be used for research and testing on integrating UAS into the national airspace.  Virginia has one of six Federal Aviation Administration-designated test sites, the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership led by Virginia Tech.

9/11 First Responders and Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism: The bill renews health benefits for firefighters, police officers and other first responders who became sick because of toxic exposure at the sites of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including hundreds of Virginians, through 2090. It reauthorizes the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and creates a fund to compensate U.S. victims of state sponsored terrorism. Kaine and Warner co-sponsored the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to renew these benefits.

Cybersecurity:  The bill provides a total of $100 million in new funding for DHS for key cybersecurity improvements. The bill also includes $21 million to the Office of Personnel Management to address its cybersecurity needs following the data breaches announced in July 2015.  Language in the bill provides 10 years of identity theft protection ‎and insurance up to $5,000. The bill also includes the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA), including a Warner provision to give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) greater authority to protect the federal government’s civilian .gov networks.

Intelligence Authorization Act: The bill includes the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2016. It would require the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on standards for measuring damage from attacks on computer networks, in order to craft a response. This legislation includes a Warner provision to require a comprehensive approach to the overhead satellite architecture that supports U.S. intelligence and defense programs.

Internal Revenue Service: The bill provides an additional $290 million for IRS to respond to taxpayer questions and improve fraud detection and prevention and cybersecurity.

Criminal Justice: The bill includes funding for programs to support law enforcement officers and improve police-community relations, including $476 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants and $70 million to support the purchase of body-worn cameras for police. 

Opioid and Heroin Abuse Crisis: The bill provides $7 million to fund anti-heroin task forces within the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. It also provides funding for Justice Department grant programs available to state and local governments for residential drug treatment, prescription drug monitoring and drug courts. The bill includes $70 million to fund the Centers for Disease Control’s state-based efforts to address prescription opioid abuse – more than triple the amount included in last year’s bill. The bill also increases funding to the  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration including $47 million directed to addressing epidemic of prescription drug and heroin overdose.

Seafood Industry and H-2B Visas: The bill includes a new provision that exempts some returning non-immigrant workers from counting towards the annual cap of H-2B visas. The provision also gives employers more flexibility in scheduling the arrival of workers to better meet the demands of their business needs. Virginia’s seafood industry relies on this program for seasonal workers and economic growth.

Pediatric Research: The bill includes $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Act, which authorizes pediatric research within the Common Fund at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The authorizing legislation was named for 10 year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.

Alzheimer’s Research: The bill includes $936 million for Alzheimer’s research, an increase of $350 million.

National Park Service: The bill provides $2.85 billion for the National Park Service, a 9% increase to support the 2016 centennial.

Land and Water Conservation: The bill provides $450 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and will fund additional programs within the Rivers of the Chesapeake Collaborative Landscape program.

Chesapeake Bay Program: The bill funds the Chesapeake Bay Program at $73 million and fully funds the Chesapeake Gateways & Trails program at $2 million.

American Battlefield Protection Program: The legislation fully funds this National Park Service program at $10 million. The program, which Kaine led the bipartisan effort to reauthorize in 2014, leverages private funds from states and landowners to preserve Civil War battlefields at risk of being lost to haphazard development.

Port of Virginia and Norfolk flood control: Included in the nearly $6 billion U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program is a flood control feasibility study for the City of Norfolk, which will lead to future eligibility for construction funding to ease recurrent flooding. The bill also funds a feasibility study for deepening Norfolk harbor and channels to 55 feet, which will enable the Port of Virginia to serve the deepest draft post-Panamax cargo vessels.

Career and Technical Education (CTE): State grant funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act was maintained at $1.12 billion for FY16. Kaine, co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus, has supported the reauthorization of the Perkins CTE Act.

Early Childhood Education:  The bill includes $9.2 billion for Head Start, $570 million more than FY15. Early Head Start, including Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, will see an increase of $135 million. Additionally, the bill provides $250 million to continue support for the Preschool Development Grants program for states to develop and expand high-quality early learning programs. Virginia has received $17.5 million for the past two years and this funding will support the third year of Virginia’s four-year grant.

Teacher Quality Partnership Grants: The bill includes $43.09 million for Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, an increase of $2.5 million. The Richmond Teacher Residency Program, a partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Richmond Public Schools to train teachers to teach in high-need schools, is a recipient of the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants.

Apprenticeship Grant Program: The bill includes $90 million for a new Apprenticeship Grant program that will help states increase their capacity to register and oversee apprenticeship programs, help private companies launch apprenticeship programs and help community-based organizations better assist underserved populations and fund innovative apprenticeship opportunities.

Black Lung Clinics Program: The bill maintains funding at $6.76 million for the Black Lung Clinics Program which provides primary care, patient and family counseling and pulmonary rehabilitation

Federal Employee COLA: The bill allows the President’s proposal for a one percent pay increase for federal employees to take effect in January.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): The bill provides $91.3 billion in mandatory funding for the VA. Additionally, the bill provides $63.3 billion in FY17 advance funding for veterans’ health care and $103 billion for FY17 advance funding for the VA’s compensation and pensions mandatory accounts.

Veterans Opioid Abuse: To address mounting concerns about prescription drug abuse and an overdose epidemic among veterans, the bill directs the VA to adopt the opioid prescribing guidelines developed by the Centers of Disease Control, to develop IT systems to track and monitor opioid prescriptions, to ensure all VA medical facilities are equipped with opioid receptor antagonists to treat drug overdoses, and to provide additional training to medical personnel who prescribe controlled substances.

WMATA: Full funding of $150 million for WMATA grants, which will support capital improvements such as track safety and station upgrades, new train cars and other infrastructure that is overdue for maintenance that will improve Metro’s safety and reliability.

DATA Act: The bill provides $19 million to the Department of the Treasury for efforts to implement the DATA Act. The bipartisan DATA Act, landmark transparency legislation introduced by Senator Warner and signed into law in 2014, will allow taxpayers to track every dollar spent by federal agencies on a common website and help lawmakers more easily identify fraud, waste and abuse to create a more efficient government.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: The bill includes a $17 million increase for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It also includes a requirement that BLS report to Congress within one year on the “Bureau’s efforts to report on all forms of employment in the current economy,” including the contingent workforce.

Visa Waiver Program Reform: The bill includes a number of reforms that strengthen the Visa Waiver Program, including by requiring the collection of additional information from travelers before they arrive and by requiring countries to fully implement information sharing agreements with the U.S. Additionally, the bill requires individuals who have recently visited countries of concern to apply for visas before traveling to the United States.

Tax Provisions

Child Tax Credit (CTC): The bill provides $88 billion to permanently extend and expand the CTC, which is critical to helping middle- to low-income families with the cost of raising a child.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): The bill provides $30 billion to permanently extend an increased credit for working families

American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC): The bill provides $80 billion to permanently extend the AOTC, which helps students and families afford post-secondary education.

Research & Development Tax Credit: The bill provides $113 billion to permanently extend the Research and Development Tax Credit, which helps encourage business innovation and research. Included is a modification supported by Warner and Kaine to increase accessibility for startups.

Mass Transit Benefits: The bill provides $1.7 billion to permanently extend the increase in the monthly employer-provided transit and vanpool benefits from $130 to $250, which will help federal employees in their work commutes.

Energy Tax Provisions: Multi-year extensions of wind, solar, and alternative fuel credits and permanent extension of conservation easement tax credit.

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