The $1.1 trillion omnibus spending package that will fund the federal government through September 2016 “contains many critical wins for Idaho and Western States,” Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson said in a statement praising the bill.
The accord reached this week between Congress and the White House “avoids the inefficient and negligent practice of funding the government through continuing resolutions, and is instead the product of this past year’s worth of thoughtful deliberation and line-by-line analysis of our budget,” he said.
Simpson listed the following highlights for Idaho:
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▪ Increased funding for operations and programs at Idaho National Laboratories, including infrastructure maintenance and improvements, safeguards and security, and various research projects – in all, a $73 million increase in spending.
▪ $396 million for cleanup activities associated with the Idaho Cleanup Project and the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project co-located on the Idaho desert with INL, an increase of $16.5 million.
▪ $2 million more for work at INL on the National Spent Fuel Program and another $2 million to create tools to assess threats to the energy grid, including electric, oil and gas, and nuclear sectors.
▪ Increase trucking weight limits to 129,000 pounds from 105,500 pounds, bringing Idaho in line with neighboring states and with Idaho’s state highways. The current weight limit has made it difficult for Idaho producers to ship goods to, from, and through the state.
Interior and Environment
▪ Full funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program that compensates counties with high percentages of federal land for lost property taxes. Idaho counties received $28.6 million in PILT funding in 2014-15.
▪ $19 million more for hazardous fuels reduction activities and $21 million more for the timber program.
▪ Preserves existing rules on grazing allotment issues related to transparency of litigation costs and requiring litigants to exhaust administrative review process before going to court.
▪ $1 million to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves.
▪ Three-year extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with 50 percent of funding going to state and local recreation, conservation, and battlefield protection programs.
Simpson also highlighted reduced funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, holding its budget at 21 percent below FY10 levels.
▪ Preserves agricultural research programs including the U.S. Sheep Experimental Station (USSES) in Dubois.
▪ Repeals mandatory country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) to avoid U.S. violations of international trade policy. Retaliatory tariffs sought by other countries under COOL could have had significant impacts on state agriculture with tariffs as high as $172 million on exports.
▪ Funds Idaho National Guard’s A-10 Thunderbolt II operations at Gowen Field in Boise for the fiscal year.
▪ $17 million dollar increase in Impact Aid for Idaho counties and schools.
The House is scheduled to vote to approve the spending package Friday.