U.S. Senator Mark Pryor announced today that the Senate has passed a major spending bill which provides critical resources for agriculture, law enforcement, commerce and transportation needs.
"In order to help get our fiscal house in order, we've had to reduce funding for even the most deserving programs," Pryor said. "Still, we've made important investments in our nation's future. Funding is prioritized for public safety as well as infrastructure, agriculture and business development."
Pryor is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which allows him the opportunity to shape the legislation both during the committee process and on the Senate floor. Specific earmarks are no longer allowed; however, Arkansas will fare well from several provisions in the legislation or accompanying report language, including the following highlights:
Agriculture and Rural Development:
* The Delta Regional Authority is funded at $2.9 million, which is consistent with previous funding levels under this bill.
* The programs providing research, education and extension activities that are supported by the University of Arkansas's Division of Agriculture system are largely protected in the bill.
* The National Center for Toxicological Research near Pine Bluff, Arkansas is funded at $60 million, just below the President's Request. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives reduced funding so dramatically that this center would have to close, putting an estimated 550 Arkansans out of work.
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies:
* As part of the National Export Initiative, the Department of Commerce is required to develop an outreach plan to help strengthen facilities such as the Arkansas World Trade Center in Rogers, Arkansas.
* Regional Innovation Clusters: Enables the Secretary of Commerce to award competitive grants up to $20 million to create regional innovation clusters and science parks. Geographic equity and the inclusion of rural projects is required to be a consideration in the decision making process regarding the award of funding. This language helps fund Pryor's initiative to create or expand science parks.
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development
* Funding for the Highway Administration is maintained at $41 billion. Under a formula, Arkansas will receive an estimated $481 million for highway improvements around the state.
* An additional $1.9 billion is provided for the repair of roads as a result of federally declared disasters.
* Funding for TIGER grants has been increased from $523 million to $550 million. This funding supports significant transportation projects in a wide variety of modes, including highways and bridges, public transportation, passenger and freight railroads, and port infrastructure. The Bella Vista Bypass benefited from this funding in the past. Additional funding is needed for several projects in Arkansas.
* Funding for the Airport Improvement Program is maintained at $3.5 billion. Conway, Arkansas is using AIP funding to relocate their airport. Other possible uses of funding include runway and terminal improvements.
The bill, H.R. 2112, consists of the FY2012 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies; FY2012 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; and FY2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bills. It will now proceed to the House of Representatives for a vote.