Kilmer Secures Critical Investments, Keeps Government Open

Tuesday, Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) voted to support two legislative packages that together comprise all 12 fiscal year 2020 funding bills. The packages, products of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations, now head to the Senate.

“Today, I voted to keep the government open and to fund critical priorities for our region that will create jobs and help our environment,” said Rep. Kilmer. “As a Member of the Appropriations Committee, I am pleased that it includes vital investments in Puget Sound recovery and restoring our salmon, a much-deserved pay raise for our military and for civilian federal workers, support for Indian Country and veterans, investments in jobs at Naval Base Kitsap, and funding for broadband and rural economic development.”

Kilmer added, “This is not the agreement I would have written on my own. There are provisions of this legislation that I detest. But I don’t get to vote ‘yes, but I have concerns’ or ‘no, but I liked these parts’. While there is a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, to avert a government shutdown we needed to reach an agreement with a Republican Senate and a Republican President whose values are different than those of a majority of folks in our region. We saw the lasting damage caused when that process failed and our country suffered a government shutdown. Our region doesn’t want further chaos and shutdowns. Today’s vote responsibly funds our government, prevents another damaging government shutdown, and invests in our region”

The bill includes a number of priorities championed by Rep. Kilmer, including:

Promoting Salmon and Orca Recovery

In the FY 2020 appropriations agreement, Rep. Kilmer secured $35,500,000 in funding to address the recommendations outlined in the Pacific Salmon Commission’s plan to implement the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Signed by Canada and the United States in 1985, the Treaty provides a framework for the two countries to cooperatively manage Pacific salmon stocks focused on protecting and expanding spawning habitat, increasing hatchery production, and implementing conservation measures to prevent overfishing and maximize production.

Rep. Kilmer also secured $22,000,000 in funding for Mitchell Act hatchery activities, which enable federal agencies to work with Oregon, Washington, and Idaho to establish and operate a series of hatcheries and fish passage facilities to improve declining salmon runs in the Columbia River System, in order to ensure conversation of these critical natural resources, maintain economically viable tribal, commercial, and sports fisheries, and provide prey for Southern Resident killer whales.

In addition, the legislation includes $65 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund to support efforts to protect and restore salmon habitat and maintain long-term monitoring to track the success of restoration efforts. This program is the primary source of funding dedicated to recovering wild salmon and steelhead populations listed as threatened and endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“Protecting and restoring the salmon resource for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska is critical for the welfare of thousands of Tribal and Non-Tribal families who depend on it for their livelihood,” said W. Ron Allen, Tribal Chair/CEO, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “We deeply appreciate the support of Representative Kilmer to secure funding to implement the newly negotiated US-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty, and for his continued commitment to protect and restore our salmon and the coastal ecosystems and economies that depend on them.”

Investing in Local Navy Installations

Recognizing the important role that the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard plays in our national defense and local economy, Rep. Kilmer fought to increase funding available for facilities improvements and upgrades at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and ultimately secured $20 million in additional funding for enhancements at the Navy’s public shipyards.

Rep. Kilmer also championed a $50 million increase for the Office of Economic Adjustment’s Defense Communities Infrastructure Program (DCIP), which helps communities near defense installations – like those around Naval Base Kitsap and JBLM – plan for and implement future infrastructure projects that improve the quality of life for people, including civilians and members of the armed services and their families, living in the surrounding areas.

In addition, the spending bill included a 3.1 percent pay increase for members of the armed forces and for civilian defense workers. 

In a continued effort to invest in facilities and infrastructure at critical defense facilities across the region, the legislation includes $25 million for an Undersea Vehicle Maintenance Facility at Keyport, $51 million for Dry Dock 4 and Pier 3 modernization work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and $48 million for the Seawolf Service Pier at Bangor.

“I want to express appreciation to Congressman Kilmer for fighting to increase funding for improvements at PSNS and for future infrastructure investment near the base in Bremerton,” said Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler. “This financial support will continue to ensure PSNS maintains a strong military presence here and will help meet the needs of individuals and families living in our community.”

Restoring Puget Sound

The FY 2020 Interior Appropriations Bill includes a $5 million increase in the Puget Sound Geographic Program, which provides grants to state, local, and tribal governments to implement projects that protect jobs and local economies by improving water quality, enhancing fish passage, increasing salmon habitat, and protecting shorelines. The total funding level of $33 million included in the FY 2020 bill is an increase of more than 18% above the current funding level.

Additionally, each of the 28 National Estuary Programs (NEPs) received a $100,000 increase over the FY 2019 enacted level, as well as a $3 million increase for competitive grants. The Puget Sound National Estuary Program is an Environmental Protection Agency place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance, including Puget Sound – the nation’s second largest estuary. 

Rep. Kilmer also helped to sustain funding for the National Marine Fisheries Service to continue research and monitoring efforts that are critical to recover Southern Resident Killer Whales.

“We know what we need to do to recover Puget Sound,” said Laura Blackmore, Executive Director, Puget Sound Partnership. “The primary barrier between us and more food for orcas, clean and sufficient water supplies for people and fish, sustainable working lands, and harvestable shellfish beds is funding. These proposed budget increases would be a very welcome boost to Puget Sound recovery, to orca recovery, and to estuarine recovery nationwide.”

Reducing Jet Noise

Over the past several years, Rep. Kilmer has pushed the Department of Defense to fund efforts to reduce the noise of the Navy’s EA-18G Growler through his work on the Appropriations Committee. This year, Rep. Kilmer included a provision requiring the Navy to measure jet noise generated by Growler activities, make those measurements available to the public, and work with affected communities to mitigate potential impacts of these activities. He also worked to secure an additional $2 million investment to continue the Navy’s work to develop technologies that can reduce jet noise. These provisions continue Rep. Kilmer’s work to ensure that the Navy remains a good neighbor to residents of the Olympic Peninsula and surrounding communities. 

Ensuring Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care in Rural Communities

The bill also contains several provisions that continue Rep. Kilmer’s effort to protect access to affordable and high-quality health care for Washingtonians who live in rural areas.

Rep. Kilmer authored a provision that aims to halt a new policy from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) known as “site neutrality,” which would cost Olympic Medical Center (OMC) $47 million over ten years. The provision directs CMS to reconsider the rule and take into account the negative effects to hospitals like OMC that are designated as a Sole Community Hospital or are located in a Health Professional Shortage Area. 

“The CMS policy of ‘site neutrality’ will significantly reduce access to needed physician care for the elderly, low income and sickest patients in rural areas served by Sole Community Hospitals,” said Eric Lewis, CEO, Olympic Medical Center. “Safety net hospitals serving these patients in both urban and rural areas face a 60% reimbursement cut in physician practice expenses, and patient access is going to be negatively impacted. I’m grateful for Rep. Kilmer’s continued efforts to fix this problem and help protect access to care in rural areas.”

Rep. Kilmer also championed an effort to pursue strategies to help attract health care practitioners to rural clinics and hospitals in areas with health care professional shortages, like the Olympic Peninsula.

Additionally, Rep. Kilmer secured language directing the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to conduct a review of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program, to determine how this program could better address the health care needs of rural communities by identifying more effective strategies to encourage health care providers to practice in designated shortage areas.

Supporting Investments in Innovative Medical Research

To keep the United States on the forefront of medical research that is critical to combating terminal diseases and improving patient outcomes, Rep. Kilmer worked to secure a $2.6 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which includes funding for Alzheimer’s disease research, HIV/AIDS research, and the Cancer Moonshot research initiative.

Supporting Clean Energy Research and Development and Efforts to Combat Climate Change

The bill significantly increases funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) to invest in clean energy technologies to change the energy sector and more effectively address the critical economic, environmental, and energy security challenges facing the nation as the result of climate change. Included in the legislation is an initiative championed by Rep. Kilmer to fund the Water Power Technologies Office’s Powering the Blue Economy initiative, which is focused on developing marine hydrokinetic energy and creating more resilient coastal communities. This funding will help to continue ongoing work at the DOE funded Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim.

Additionally, the bill includes $390 million in funding for the Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) to support research aimed at quickly developing energy technologies that have the potential to change the energy sector and address critical challenges. The bill also includes $2.72 billion – a $286 million increase from the FY 2019 enacted level – for the Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) program to ensure that American continues to lead in the transition to a global clean energy economy.

The legislation also includes $38.34 million for the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) to support the eight regionally-focused Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs) around the country and rejects the Administration’s proposal to reduce the overall number of centers. These Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs), including the Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center housed at the University of Washington, provide actionable science and research that directly address many of the climate-related challenges unique to different regions of the country. 

Investing in Forest Collaboration Management and Forest Restoration

Rep. Kilmer authored a provision highlighting the value of collaborative forest management and directing the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to prioritize resources to better leverage support from existing Forest Collaboratives to expedite project development and approval of forest treatments developed by Collaboratives. This provision will help collaboratives like the Olympic Forest Collaborative continue to advance forest treatments that increase harvest levels while also achieving much needed environmental benefits like landscape restoration, watershed protection, and habitat conservation, in order to create more economic opportunities on the Olympic Peninsula.

The legislation also provides a $50 million increase for the Forest Service’s non-firefighting activities, including a $5 million increase for Forest Products.

“We appreciate Rep. Kilmer’s leadership in helping secure critical investments for necessary work on overstocked and at-risk national forests,” said Travis Joseph, President, American Forest Resource Council. “Increased funding for active, sustainable forest management, thinning, forest roads, and smart wildfire suppression – while engaging diverse stakeholders and partner organizations – will improve the health and resiliency of our forests, local economies, and surrounding communities.”

Combating Climate Change and Investing in Resiliency

In order to continue making meaningful progress towards combating the impacts of climate change, Rep. Kilmer fought to increase federal funding for programs that support state efforts to protect vulnerable communities from coastal hazards and other consequences of climate change. The bill includes $77 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal Zone Management Grants, which provide core funding for states to address important national and state coastal management priorities. Rep. Kilmer also ensured that the Committee encourages NOAA to support mitigation and relocation efforts of coastal tribal communities, like the Hoh, Quileute, and Makah tribes, that are seeking to mitigate the threat of severe weather storms and promote public safety.

The legislation also includes a $5 million increase in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Tribal Climate Resilience program, which will provide competitive awards to support vulnerable coastal tribal communities.

In addition, the legislation includes $66.5 million for NOAA’s Climate Research Cooperative Institutes to support cutting-edge research on climate, ocean, and fishery science and directs additional funds for enhancing coastal resiliency.

“Rep. Derek Kilmer has been a staunch friend and ally for the City of Ocean Shores, WA, providing us with guidance and assistance when we declared an emergency when our geotubes failed, helping us develop strategies and partners to pursue solutions for the emergency, and assisting us in seeking and obtaining the long-term maintenance for the issues relating to our deteriorating navigation jetty,” said Crystal L. Dingler, Mayor, City of Ocean Shores.

Increasing Early Warning Capabilities for Natural Hazards and Disasters

Rep. Kilmer also fought to maintain funding for NOAA’s Tsunami Warning Centers and for the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. The funding for these programs supports hazard identification and assessment; response and evacuation planning at both the state and community level; installation and maintenance of evacuation route signs; deployment, installation, and maintenance of the All Hazards Alert Broadcast tsunami warning siren system, which is comprised of 58 sirens along the coastline; and a robust program of outreach, education, and exercises. Without these funds, most, if not all, of these activities would be discontinued. 

The legislation also includes $19 million for the USGS for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System.

In addition, the bill includes $30.26 million for the Volcano Hazards program to maintain support for next generation lahar detection operations and infrastructure on Mount Rainier and other high-threat volcanoes.

Making Our Communities Safer

In 2018, Congress passed the Bipartisan STOP School Violence Act, which Rep. Kilmer co-led, to boost school efforts to develop violence prevention programs and coordinate with law enforcement to improve school safety. This year, Rep. Kilmer helped secure $125 million for the grant program – a $25 million increase – to help train students, teachers, school officials, and local law enforcement how to identify and intervene early when signs of violence arise and create a coordinated reporting system when threatening signs are noticed.

The legislation also includes $25 million for gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, which is being funded for the first time in more than 20 years. 

The bill also includes $502.5 million for the Violence Against Women Act Prevention and Prosecution Programs, a $5 million increase from the FY 2019 enacted level. The bill will include direct funding for federally-recognized Indian tribes.

Improving Quality of Care at the VA and Investing in Regional Facilities

Rep. Kilmer worked to secure several provisions that will help to improve the quality of care administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including $1.5 billion for the Veterans Electronic Health Record to develop an interoperable electronic health record system that will access seamlessly the records of veterans in the VA system, the Department of Defense (DOD), and of community providers.

In addition, Rep. Kilmer pushed for the bill to include a Committee recommendation that the VA conduct a pilot program to improve health outcomes and patient experience for beneficiaries with complex medical conditions. 

Supporting Affordable Housing and Homeownership Programs

This year, Rep. Kilmer was able to help secure a $4.9 billion increase for the Department of Housing and Urban Development for a wide range of programs that support affordable housing and homeownership and to provide communities with resources to increase affordable housing stock, make homeownership more accessible, and increase access to rental assistance, including:

  • a $1.3 billion increase for Tenant-based Rental Assistance,
  • a $100 million increase for the HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME),
  • a $100 million increase for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG),
  • a $6.5 million increase for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (NeighborWorks America)
  • And, a $1 million increase for the Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing,

Strengthening Rural Economies

The bill invests over $640 million in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand broadband service to grow economic development opportunities and improve education and healthcare services. The bill also includes an effort by Rep. Kilmer to urge the USDA to expand high-speed internet deployment in Indian country, and to work with tribal communities to better understand the unique infrastructure challenges they face and ensure that they are not held at a competitive disadvantage when competing for broadband resources.

“Mason PUD 3 is excited about the commitment of Representative Kilmer to find solutions for rural broadband expansion. He has reached across the aisle to work an issue that is important to the entire country, regardless of location and political persuasion,” said Joel Myer, Public Information & Government Relations Manager, Mason County PUD 3. “We are pleased that Representative Kilmer has regularly consulted with public and private entities that are working so hard to ensure our citizens have the tools to personally and professionally successful, wherever they live.”

In addition, final agreement also includes $500 million for Payments in Lieu of Taxes and a two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program, both of which provide critical funds to rural counties that have a high percentage of federal lands that don’t contribute to local tax revenue. 

Protecting American Elections

The final agreement includes $425 million for a new round of election security grants to improve the security and integrity of elections for Federal office. This includes funding efforts to restore staffing and other resources and enable the EAC to improve their support to states in advance of the 2020 elections and beyond.

Enhancing Educational Opportunities

The final agreement includes investments in education – including increases to Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal programs serving students most in need. Additionally, the legislation boosts funding for Pell Grants, higher education programs, the office of civil rights, and full-service community schools, which provide students with academic and support services that help cultivate success.