WASHINGTON – President Obama’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year reflects progress on a number of priorities of U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.).
“The federal budget is a reflection of our nation’s values and priorities, and what’s clear from the Administration’s FY16 budget request is that President Obama’s priority is our middle class… as it should be,” Senator Coons said on Tuesday. “Our economy is growing and our government should invest in it. As Congress prepares its own budget and — hopefully — proceeds with a responsible appropriation process, I hope it will keep these values in mind and invest in our nation’s continued economic growth.”
A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Coons wrote to the White House Office of Management and Budget in November to recommend funding levels for a number of priorities. Updates on some of those are below:
The Army Corps of Engineers’ 2015 work plan, which accompanies the President’s budget proposal but does not require Congressional approval, includes $97.5 million for the Delaware River Deepening Project — including the $35 million approved by Congress for work in FY 2015 and an additional $62.5 million to fully complete the next phase of work in FY 2016. This funding will keep the project on track for completion in 2017.
“The Port of Wilmington and its workers need the chance to compete for larger ships and more jobs,” Senator Coons said. “Deepening will attract new investment opportunities to expand the Port, which will bring new trade, more cargo, and thousands of new jobs to the Port and the region. The pace of the project has been limited by the incremental federal funding, but under the funding plan announced today, the project is on track to be completed on time. I’m grateful to the Obama Administration for prioritizing this funding.”
The President’s budget proposal also includes an increase of more than $1 billion for maintaining current passenger rail service. Between Amtrak and commuter rail, the Northeast Corridor alone moves more than 750,000 people a day. It is estimated that even a one-day loss of service on the Northeast Corridor would cost the economy $100 million.
“Amtrak is critical to our region’s economy and strength,” Senator Coons said. “Amtrak has made major strides in the last decade, substantially increasing ridership and revenue. However, we are getting to a point where our chronic underfunding of infrastructure will begin to catch up with us. The investments proposed in the budget will provide crucial upgrades to rail stations, tracks, tunnels, bridges, and passenger cars and improve quality of service, reduce travel time, and increase reliability.”
The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) is the only public-private partnership dedicated to providing technical support and services to small and medium-sized manufacturers. MEP centers form a nationwide network of proven resources that enables manufacturers to compete globally, supports greater supply chain integration, and provides access to information, training, and technologies that improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Senator Coons requested an increase in funding from $130 million to at least $141 million. The President’s proposal requests $141 million in funding.
“With our economy growing and manufacturing surging, now is the time to invest in American manufacturing,” Senator Coons said. “Delaware’s MEP has helped so many businesses grow and create jobs here, and it deserves our full support.”
The President’s budget proposes funding the federal Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant program at $22.5 million — just shy of the $23 million Senator Coons requested.
After winning passage of the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act last year, Senator Coons requested fully funding Children’s Advocacy Centers at $20 million, but the President’s request includes only $11 million.
“For the unbelievable role Children’s Advocacy Centers play in our communities’ safety, the federal investment is an absolute bargain,” Senator Coons said. “Once again, I find myself disappointed and astonished that the Administration has proposed a significant reduction in funding for these centers. I will do everything in my power to ensure these centers get the full funding they need to operate and continue caring for kids who have been victims of or witness to crimes.”
Senator Coons is a member of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The President’s budget proposes funding of $1.06 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program, helps state and local governments – often in partnership with local non-profit groups – to build or rehabilitate decent affordable housing for low-income Americans. Senator Coons had requested a minimum of $1.00 billion.
Senator Coons had also requested an elimination of the cap on the number of housing units that qualify for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration project. The program comes at no additional cost to taxpayers and helps improve public housing properties, helping clear the $26 billion nationwide backlog of deferred maintenance. Applications for participation in the program exceeded expectation, so Senator Coons urged the cap be eliminated. The President’s budget eliminates the cap.
Energy and Science
Among the diverse programs in the President’s budget for research in science and engineering, he proposes $325 million in funding for the pioneering Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy through the Department of Energy, which pursues high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. Senator Coons is one of Congress’ biggest advocates for the agency and urged the Administration to request at least $300 million.
The President’s proposal also requests significant increases for the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program — two enormously successful energy efficiency programs helping homeowners save on their energy bills and make their homes safer. Senator Coons introduced bipartisan legislation in the previous Congress to reauthorize both programs and urged the President to request strong funding for them.
The President’s budget proposes $1.18 billion in funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which includes AmeriCorps and VISTA, exceeding Senator Coons’ request for a minimum of $1.05 billion. The President also heeded Senator Coons’ request to abandon its plans to terminate and consolidate the Senior Corps program.