Leahy Helps Steer Vermont Priorities Onto Legislative Track As Senate Appropriations Committee Sets TUESDAY Markup On Stimulus Package

(MONDAY, Jan. 26) -- The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow morning (Tuesday) to finish writing and to begin voting on the Senate’s version of the economic stimulus spending package.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the panel’s third most senior member, has worked to include funding for a long list of investments important to Vermont.  Leahy earlier this year released letters in which he spelled out his priorities for the package, which closely track the bill as now drafted.

In a statement Monday, Leahy said, “The worsening economic crisis has reached Vermont, including our state’s budget.  We need a substantial stimulus package to help bring the economy back.  President Obama has set clear goals, and I support those goals.  The stimulus package should be temporary, timely, and targeted, and when possible these should include transformative investments that can not only create jobs for today, but also for tomorrow.” 

Leahy continued, “I have pushed hard on the Appropriations Committee for several priorities that I believe are important to Vermont and the nation, and I am pleased that the committee is on the way to approving them.  These include investments in broadband access, local law enforcement, transportation, housing, green energy, hunger-relief and basic health care efforts, education, and water treatment facilities.  These are efforts that would strengthen Vermont’s economy by promoting economic growth, creating jobs and easing our state’s fiscal crisis.”

On Monday evening Leahy released a list of several of his priorities now included in the bill (he will release additional features of the bill important to Vermont as the drafting process continues):

Broadband & Business

·         $9 billion for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to improve access to broadband.

·         $4.5 billion for electric grid modernization.

·         $250 million to provide capital to qualified community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to invest in the development of underserved communities.

Nutrition & Health

·         $16.5 billion for additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly the Food Stamp program).

·         $500 million for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.

·         $150 million for Food Banks.

·         $5 billion to jumpstart efforts to computerize health records to cut costs and reduce medical errors (Leahy has set a Judiciary Committee hearing for tomorrow to review privacy conditions he has included in the computerized health records provisions in the package).

Law Enforcement

·         $3.95 billion total to support law enforcement efforts, including $150 million for rural drug enforcement.  Leahy last year held hearings in Rutland and St. Albans on drug-related crime in rural areas.

Combined with the economic recovery tax cuts and mandatory programs announced by the Senate Finance Committee last week, the Senate legislation totals $825 billion.  The Appropriations portion totals $365 billion.  The package would create or sustain an estimated 4 million or more jobs nationwide.

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