U.S. Senator Mark Pryor and Congressman Mike Ross today said Arkansas will benefit from an annual spending bill that funds agriculture, law enforcement, commerce and transportation priorities. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 298 to 191. The Senate is expected to pass the bill Thursday evening.
"Our budget is tight, but we were able to make smart, targeted investments in infrastructure, agriculture and business development," Pryor said. "As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I worked to shape the legislation in a way that better prepares our state and nation to compete globally today and in the future."
"This bill reduces federal spending, while creating jobs right here in Arkansas," said Ross. "I believe it's past time to invest in America again and that's exactly what this bill does. I'm proud to have helped secure funding for the National Center for Toxicological Research near Pine Bluff, which employs hundreds of Arkansans and helps make our food and medicine safer. This bill also supports our farmers, helps rebuild our roads and bridges and helps communities recover after all the natural disasters we had this year. I supported and helped pass this bill because it makes smart, targeted investments that will create more jobs in Arkansas and help get our economy back on track."
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 (NCTR) near Pine Bluff, Arkansas will be funded at $60 million, just below the President's Request. In addition, Pryor included language in the bill to recognize NCTR's work in nanotechnology research and lay the groundwork to develop a Nanotechnology Core Center at the facility.
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: The accompanying conference report directs $50 million for economic adjustment assistance, which could be used to establish or expand science parks. Of this, $5 million is specifically allocated to fund Pryor's initiative to expand or create science parks through loan guarantees and grants.
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development
Funding for the Highway Administration is maintained at $39.1 billion. Under a formula, Arkansas will receive an estimated $481 million for highway improvements around the state.
An additional $1.6 billion is provided for the repair of roads as a result of federally declared disasters.
$500 million has been allocated for TIGER grants, which support 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 slated at $3.35 billion. Conway, Arkansas is using AIP funding to relocate their airport. Hot Springs and Pine Bluff are using the investments to rehabilitate and expand their runways. Other possible uses of funding include security, runway and terminal improvements for more than 40 airports throughout the state of Arkansas.
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.