Washington Review, April 1, 2016
Over the last two weeks, I have written to the House Appropriations Committee to support or increase funding for a number of programs that are essential to the 8th District.
I sent letters supporting funding for security programs to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. One letter requested at least $405 million for the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) Grant Program and $405 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program. The FIRE and SAFER Grant programs provide high quality, modern equipment and resources to hire new firefighters as well as recruit and retain volunteer firefighters. These grants will help improve both the safety of our firefighters and the communities they serve. I also requested that funding for regional information sharing activities, such as the Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) Program be restored to $45 million. These programs help law enforcement agencies fight crime and terrorism by providing investigative and case support while securely linking thousands of criminal justice agencies to allow for intelligence sharing using state-of-the-art technology.
I also submitted a letter supporting $725 million in funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) which allows first responders in high-threat urban areas to invest in a wide variety of resources. Funding for UASI has been critical in providing first responders with the training they need to prevent, respond to, and recover from disasters in our metropolitan areas. Finally, I requested sufficient funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Bryne JAG) Program and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Programs. These programs enable law enforcement agencies to form partnerships among communities and law enforcement officers, combat criminal activities, as well as develop and implement problem-solving and crime prevention programs. I believe it is important to fully fund security programs such as these that help improve our law enforcement system and protect both civilians and first responders in dangerous situations.
Investing in America’s transportation infrastructure is extremely important and can stimulate the economy by creating jobs and bringing in new business. This is why I requested funds for various transportation programs under the Fiscal Year 2017 Appropriations bill. A number of submissions I made will build on the commitment that Congress made to passenger rail in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. One such request was for $2.3 billion in funding to provide grants to Amtrak in order to maintain current passenger rail services. Amtrak provided service for 30.8 million passengers in fiscal year 2015 and the Northeast Corridor carries more passengers between Washington, New York, and Boston than all major airlines combined. As ridership continues to grow, it is essential that we maintain our passenger rail infrastructure so that it remains safe and efficient. I also supported $3.68 billion for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements as well as $20 million for Restoration and Enhancement. These funds would be used to improve various aspects of our nation’s rail service, creating jobs and connecting communities while helping us compete in the global economy.
In addition, I sent a letter supporting the President’s request of $1.25 billion in funding for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) programs. The TIGER competitive grants program creates jobs by funding investments in transportation infrastructure from states, local governments, and transit agencies. Projects are selected based on their merits, to help ensure that taxpayers are getting the highest value for every dollar invested. The program’s competitive structure and its broad eligibility allow for many types of projects to qualify, especially those that include multi-modal transportation. In 2012, the City of Bayonne secured grant funding through this program to expand the capacity of the South Hudson Intermodal Facility to accommodate Post-Panamax ships. TIGER funding has proven to be extremely effective in updating outdated infrastructure and modifying inefficient transportation planning in the 8th District. These investments in our crumbling transportation system will help create a foundation for a stronger future.
I joined my colleagues from New Jersey in requesting robust funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. These two funds provide low-interest financing to communities for compliance with federal water standards, something that is especially important in light of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. These programs are particularly important to New Jersey as communities across the state rely on their funding to maintain reliable infrastructure and complete upgrades in order to ensure access to safe, clean water.
Finally, I sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, requesting $12 million in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s (LWCF) Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership. This program is a new competitive grant initiative that is specifically focused on helping urban communities acquire or develop land to create and reinvigorate public parks and other outdoor recreation spaces in order to encourage people to reconnect with the outdoors. In addition, urban parks, such as Liberty State Park in Jersey City, have a positive impact on the local communities and generate economic activity.