Bill Provides Funding for Innovation, Research, Veterans’ Care, Environmental Cleanup and More
WASHINGTON –(ENEWSPF)–December 15, 2014. U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today voted for a federal funding bill that makes critical investments in Illinois. The Omnibus Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015 includes a number of priorities Senator Kirk fought for, such as funding for the electric barrier system to help keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, and an additional $40 million for the Veterans Benefits Administration to expedite claims processing in the effort to eliminate the veterans claims backlog. The bill now heads to the president’s desk for his signature.
“This bipartisan legislation prevents a government shutdown and will fund priorities throughout Chicagoland including infrastructure, protecting our Great Lakes and ensuring that members of law enforcement and prosecutors have the resources they need to fight dangerous drug gangs,” Senator Kirk said.
Protecting the Great Lakes
At $300 million, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) will be level-funded. Senator Kirk has led the effort to formally authorize the GLRI to ensure federal resources continue to be available to address some of the biggest challenges facing the Great Lakes. This legislation also funds the continued construction, operation and maintenance of the electric barrier system to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. In addition to significant program funding, the bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide a report on Combined Sewage Overflows (CSOs), which are a major contributor to pollution in Lake Michigan. A number of communities have taken steps to eliminate the threat of CSOs across the Great Lakes Basin, and this report will hold polluters accountable and help safeguard clean drinking water for the 30 million Americans that rely on the region’s resources.
Supporting Illinois Veterans
This bill provides $2.5 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to expedite claims processing. With this funding, VBA will be able to hire additional claims and support personnel at regional offices and will be able to expand the Veterans Claims Intake Program. Additionally, the bill includes $40 million for implementing the 10-Point Plan that Senator Kirk and Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) introduced to help reduce the veterans claims backlog.
Funding for Research and Development
This bill provides $30 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase over fiscal year 2014, which will help support research and development for various treatments, cures and therapies. Specifically, the bill provides an additional $17 million for stroke and traumatic brain injury research, allowing the Chicago Stroke Trials Consortium to maintain leadership within the NIH’s innovative StrokeNet research network. The bill includes strong support for the Office of Science, supporting the mission of Illinois’ two national labs, Argonne in Lemont and Fermi in Batavia, as well as the thousands of scientists, students and researchers who use these facilities daily. It also provides $325 million for the Department of Agriculture’s Program on Agricultural Food Research. These funds support a number of programs and scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) that carry out research in bioenergy, biotechnology, integrated landscapes, environmental sustainability, food and agricultural systems, global climate change, family resiliency and public policy. ACES maintains research and education centers located throughout Illinois that conduct research to benefit consumers, farmers, commodity groups, agricultural organizations, environmentalists, conservationists, government agencies, industry and business.
Combatting Gang Violence
This bill increases resources for the efforts of federal law enforcement agencies to combat gang violence in Illinois. The bill includes funding for federal programs that are critical to state and local law enforcement, including the U.S. Marshals Counter Gang Unit in Chicago, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms based National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN), the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Program (Byrne JAG), which is the primary source of federal assistance for local law enforcement, and the Department of Justice’s violence gang and gun crime reduction program, to deter youth from crime. The bill also invests in federal efforts to end human trafficking in the United States by directing the Department of Justice to prioritize human trafficking investigations through its Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams.
West Chicago Cleanup
The bill includes $10 million for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Title X Uranium and Thorium Reimbursement Program, which will directly aid in the environmental remediation of the former atomic factory site in West Chicago, Illinois, and other Title X sites across the country. The administration has not budgeted its share of the funds needed to continue cleanup at Title X sites in its budget request since fiscal year 2008, which has adversely impacted the West Chicago community. The sooner the remaining contaminants are removed from the site, the sooner the land will be able to return to its full potential as an economic driver for West Chicago.
Army Reserve Center in Arlington Heights
The bill provides $26 million for a new Army Reserve center for the 85th Support Command, located in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Preserving Key Infrastructure
This bill fully funds the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) contract tower program at $144.5 million to support the nation’s contract towers, including the Illinois ones in Bloomington/Normal, Decatur, Murphysboro, East Alton, Waukegan and Marion, which the FAA planned to close in 2013 due to sequestration.