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Public Statements

Letter to Barack Obama, Presidential Candidate of the United States - Funding Indian Country

U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today joined his colleagues in asking President-Elect Barack Obama to support a $3.58 billion plan to fund programs vital to Indian Country as part of any economic stimulus proposal. Johnson is a member of the Indian Affairs Committee, which has scheduled a hearing next week to discuss the plan proposed in today's letter to the President-Elect.

"It is important for Congress to pass a strong and timely stimulus plan, and I hope President-Elect Obama will agree that our comprehensive plan to address the needs of Indian Country should be in the bill," Johnson said. "Our nation's poorest communities are on reservations, and this plan addresses the unique employment, infrastructure and economic development needs of Indian reservation economies."

Representatives of the Department of the Interior, the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Congress of American Indians are expected to testify at the hearing.

Below is the full text of the letter to President-Elect Obama:
Dear Mr. President-Elect:

As you are aware, the United States owes a unique legal and moral obligation to over 560 federally recognized Indian tribal governments based on treaties, federal laws, and court decisions. To meet this solemn responsibility, we write to urge you to provide funding for tribal governments and programs in your American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. Doing so will help address the substantial infrastructure and employment needs of American Indian and Alaskan Native communities throughout the country.

Tribal infrastructure needs are significant and longstanding. The more than $50 billion unmet need in Indian reservation infrastructure poses both a danger to reservation residents and a barrier to investment and economic development of tribal communities. As you noted earlier this year, "Poverty and its effects are pervasive [in Indian Country], with more than quarter of all Native Americans living in poverty and unemployment rates reaching 80 percent on some reservations."

We have attached a plan to address these needs in a comprehensive manner. The attached plan meets the requirements set forth by the Presidential Transition Team, and helps reach the goals set forth in your "Principles for Stronger Tribal Communities." This plan will immediately stimulate Indian reservation economies nationwide, put tens of thousands of reservation residents to work, and provide long lasting support for Indian Country economic development.

The attached $3.58 billion plan includes the following funding requests:

* $1.2 billion for Indian health facilities construction and support;
* $360 million for construction of tribal justice infrastructure and support;
* $568 million for construction of tribal roads and bridge projects;
* $658 million for construction of tribal schools and colleges;
* $50 million for housing construction, weatherization, and heating in Indian Country;
* $80 million for Indian jobs training and business development;
* $600 million for water infrastructure development in Indian Country;
* $4.4 million for energy development on Indian lands; and
* $50 million to address Indian land fractionation.

We thank you for your consideration of this important request, and look forward to working with your Administration in the years ahead to make the United States stronger, safer, and healthier for all Americans.

Sincerely,

Jeff Bingaman, Mark Begich,
United States Senate United States Senate

Thad Cochran, Maria Cantwell,
United States Senate United States Senate

Tim Johnson, Jon Tester,
United States Senate United States Senate

Tom Udall, Ron Wyden,
United States Senate United States Senate

Kay Hagan, Lisa Murkowski,
United States Senate United States Senate

Daniel Akaka, Roger Wicker,
United States Senate United States Senate
Chris Dodd,
United States Senate


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