Hoeven: Year-End Funding Bill Lifts Crude Oil Export Ban, Advances Other N.D. Priorities
Measure Supports ND Flood Projects, Permanently Extends Sec. 179, Reforms Visa Waiver Program
WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, who serves on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that the year-end omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed today includes a provision to lift the decades-long ban on U.S. crude oil exports, as well as other key priorities for North Dakota. In addition, the measure reduces spending from $1.5 trillion in 2009, when it peaked, to $1.15 trillion in 2016, a reduction of $350 billion. Specifically, the measure:
- Lifts the decades-long ban on crude oil exports
- Advances flood protection projects for the Fargo-Moorhead and Minot regions
- Provides tax relief for small businesses and farmers by permanently extending the Section 179 expensing limit
- Prevents the implementation of Obamacare tax on medical devices and health care plans for two years
- Supports our military and veterans
- Supports UAS research and Centers of Excellence
- Strengthens the visa waiver program
- Extends flexibility to school meals programs
- Boosts ag research, Water Bank Program and defunds WOTUS Interpretive Rule for farmers and ranchers
- Supports Native American education and law enforcement
- Supports continued health care for 9/11 first responders (Zadroga)
“Lifting the ban on exporting crude oil is a win across the board because it will help to grow our economy and create jobs, hold the price of gasoline at the pump lower for consumers, and make our nation more secure,” Hoeven said. “While the year-end funding legislation didn’t produce as much savings as I would have liked, it still reduces spending from $1.5 trillion in 2009 to about $1.15 trillion in 2016, a reduction of $350 billion. Moreover, the legislation includes North Dakota priorities, such as flood protection for the Fargo and Minot areas, tax relief for farmers, ranchers and small businesses and keeping our military strong. It also provides unprecedented support for our nation’s veterans.”
SUMMARY OF PRIORITIES
Lifts the Ban on Oil Exports – Hoeven has repeatedly called for repealing the ban and worked persistently to get it included in the year-end legislation. The senator, who serves on the Energy Committee, cosponsored bipartisan legislation lifting the ban that passed the committee this summer. More information can be found here.
Provides funding and authorization for new construction and study starts – Includes nearly $690 million more than the Army Corps of Engineer’s proposed budget for construction and authorizes new studies and construction activity that will help to advance flood protection projects in the Fargo-Moorhead and Minot regions. Hoeven worked on the Appropriations Committee to include language in the FY 2016 Energy and Water funding bill, which has now been included in the year-end legislation.
- Help communities in North Dakota build permanent flood protection projects with an emphasis on public private partnerships like the permanent flood protection project for Fargo and the Red River Valley.
- Provide permission for the Corps to begin studies of new permanent flood protection projects, which is vital for communities like Minot and the Souris River.
- Increase the Corps funding for water development infrastructure over FY 2015. This increase will help communities like LaMoure with funding to replace sanitary sewer systems.
- Increase the Corps’ funding for FEMA flood-mapping activities to better coordinate with flood insurance and keep premiums more affordable.
The legislation also directs FEMA to take local communities’ flood protection projects into account when mapping flood hazards and to coordinate the mapping process with the phases of large projects. The measure also provides an additional $165 million above the fiscal year 2015 level for flood mitigation programs and boosts the Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program to $190 million, a 53 percent increase, and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Grant Program to $100 million, a 300 percent increase.
Provides More Than $680 billion in Tax Relief, including permanently extending the Sec. 179 limitation, the number one priority for farmers, ranchers and small businesses.
- Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation – Permanently extends Section 179 with the $500,000 limitation, a provision of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code that allows farmers, ranchers and other small businesses to expense the purchase of equipment they need to run their operations. In addition, the measure extends the bonus depreciation allowance for five years. Section 179 allows small businesses the option of expensing the costs of qualified equipment and other property up-front, which may reduce the businesses’ administrative burden and would be preferable to depreciating the items over time.
- Obamacare Tax Relief – Includes several provisions that offer regulatory relief from Obamacare’s costly and burdensome mandates, including a two-year delay of the tax on businesses that pay their employees’ health care plans, a two-year delay of the Medical Device Tax and a one-year delay of the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) paid by insurance companies. It also eliminates funding for the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
- Charitable Distribution from IRAs – Allows individuals over the age of 70½ to donate directly to a qualified charity from their Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The amount donated is excluded from their gross income for tax purposes and satisfies any minimum distribution requirement for the IRA.
- Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) – LIHTC is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for private investments made for the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing. The credits are distributed to the states on a per capita basis and developers compete for an allocation of credits. The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency manages the credits and uses them alongside state programs to address North Dakota’s housing challenges and ensure an adequate housing supply is available for the state’s workers and their families.
- Deduction for Educator Expenses – Allows teachers to deduct the cost of unreimbursed expenses up to $250 per educator, for education supplies, such as books, computer equipment and other materials.
Supports Our Military and Veterans – Ensures a strong nuclear triad and UAS force for the future.
- Cruise missile warhead: Includes full funding, $195 million, to refurbish the warhead that will go on the new Air Force long range standoff (LRSO) cruise missile.
- Global Hawk – The bill provides $268 million in support of the Global Hawk mission and includes language to ensure the Air Force does not retire or divest the Global Hawk fleet in Fiscal Year 2016. The measure ensures that the Air Force will continue the Global Hawk Block 40 program at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
- Nuclear Force Structure – Includes language Hoeven authored that directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to maintain U.S. nuclear forces at the levels agreed to in the New START Treaty, rather than reduce them, as the administration has proposed.
- Minuteman III Replacement – Full funding for the next generation intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which will replace the current Minuteman III.
- B-52 Modernization – $225.4 million to modernize the B-52, including programs to improve its communications equipment and upgrade the internal bomb bay.
- UAS Research – $7.8 million to support DoD research and development efforts for unmanned aerial systems (UAS). This funding helps DoD ensure its UAS aircraft will be consistent with the FAA’s efforts to integrate UAS into the national airspace. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected the ASSURE team, led by the University of North Dakota and Mississippi State University, as the Center of Excellence for researching the safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace.
- ND National Guard Intelligence Targeting Mission – The bill includes $7.3 million for a new facility to support the North Dakota Air National Guard’s Intelligence Targeting Mission at Hector Field in Fargo.
UAS Integration and Research – The bill provides $17.6 million for the FAA for general UAS research and integration priorities and directs that at least $5.5 million go to the UAS Center of Excellence in coordination with the six national UAS test sites.
Supports Our Nation’s Veterans – Funds Veterans Administration programs at $71.4 billion, more than has ever been appropriated to the VA. The bill makes an additional $2.5 billion in FY2016 available to improve patient access to care, and to support additional health care services including hepatitis C treatments, veterans' caregiver services, and homeless veterans’ assistance. Additionally, the bill includes a provision that requires the Department of Veteran Affairs to submit a comprehensive cost analysis of the Veterans Choice Program’s 40 mile rule criteria. The report must provide potential legislative and non-legislative solutions that offer veterans access to non-VA care when they live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility incapable of providing medical services a veteran requires.
Earlier this year the Senate passed the Access to Community Care for Veterans Act, legislation cosponsored by Hoeven. This bill amends the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (Choice Act) of 2014 to allow veterans to obtain health care services in their local community if a Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center or CBOC within 40 miles can’t provide the necessary care.
Helps Make America Safer
- Reforms the Visa Waiver Program – The legislation increases information sharing between the United States and the 38 countries whose passport-holders are allowed to visit the country without getting a visa, while also attempting to weed out travelers who have visited certain countries and may require additional scrutiny.
- Strengthens Homeland Security – provides $47.8 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including key increases for border security, immigration enforcement, and cybersecurity, among other critical missions. Specifically, the bill includes $11.1 billion for Customs and Border Protection, $359 million above the FY 2015 enacted level. The funding will be used for significant border security enhancements, such as a new unmanned aircraft; an Integrated Fixed Tower system for the Arizona border; and relocatable surveillance towers for the Southwest border. It also fully funds necessary immigration enforcement and vetting activities above the fiscal year 2015 level, including intelligence and targeting systems; Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations, overstay enforcement, and Mobile Criminal Alien Teams to identify and apprehend criminal aliens; and a modernization of the agency’s biometric system. E-Verify is funded at $120 million, and DHS is required to submit a report on the steps necessary to move to a mandatory system.
- Helps First Responders, States and Local Communities Counter Terrorism – In addition to $1.5 billion to support state and local planning, training, exercises, and equipment purchases, the bill includes $50 million in additional funding for a new initiative to counter violent extremism and complex, coordinated terrorist attacks. The funds will be available as grants to help states and local communities prepare for, prevent, and respond to such threats. The funding will benefit first responders like police, firemen, and ambulance services should a violent incident occur.
- Strengthen Cybersecurity – The measure includes $819 million for protection of government networks and information technology systems and DHS efforts with states, local communities, and the private sector to increase cybersecurity. Further, an additional $100 million is provided to enhance security of the Department’s internal systems.
Gives School Meals Programs Needed Flexibility – Includes Hoeven’s school nutrition reform amendment, which passed the Agriculture Appropriations Committee, earlier this year. The measure gives schools struggling to comply with the whole grain standard the flexibility they need during the 2016-2017 school year to allow for 50 percent of whole grains, rather than requiring 100 percent of whole grains in the school meal. It also prevents the Administration from requiring further reductions in sodium, which have already been reduced, making it difficult for schools to serve healthy foods with naturally occurring sodium. Hoeven has pressed to make these provisions permanent through the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act (S.1146), which he sponsored with Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Boosts Ag Research and Water Bank, Prevents the WOTUS Interpretive Rule for Farmers and Ranchers.
- Water Bank – Continues the Hoeven Water Bank initiative at the FY15 level of $4 million, providing compensation for farmers and landowners for flooded land through 10-year, voluntary conservation agreements, which is especially helpful for Devils Lake producers.
- Boosts Ag Research Agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and National Institutes for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) received increased funding. ARS which received an increase over FY15 levels to $1.4 billion is USDA’s in-house research arm, which partners with facilities like Fargo’s Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center. NIFA is provided funding of $1.3 billion, a $37 million increase over FY15 levels. This is critical for the cutting edge research done at America’s land grant universities, such as NDSU.
- Rural Water – Rural communities manage their water systems through programs like the Grassroots Source Water Protection Program and the Circuit Rider Program, which received increases of $974,000 and $478,000 over FY15 levels respectively.
- WOTUS – Prevents the EPA from reinstating the Waters of the U.S. Interpretive Rule, which preserves the general ag exemption from the Clean Water Act for farmers and ranchers Hoeven continues to work on several fronts to stop the full WOTUS regulation, including blocking funding for implementing the rule and eliminating the rule through standalone legislation and under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
- Anhydrous Ammonia – The bill includes a provision that prevents the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from imposing new enforcement regimes that threatened to limit the supply of anhydrous ammonia, a nitrogen fertilizer that is critically important to our nation’s farmers.
Supports Native American Education and Law Enforcement
- Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Career and Technical Institutions – Includes an additional $5.1 million to fund the, which includes United Tribes Technical College. This funding will come up front rather than at the end of the year, which will support a thriving educational system for Native American students throughout the state.
- BIA Criminal Investigations and Police Services – Provides $198 million, a $3 million increase from FY15 for BIA assumed child social services on the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota in October of 2012. Further, increased population growth has resulted in additional economic activity on the Fort Berthold Reservation, straining the police and investigative services on both reservations.
- Includes $4.5 million for the BIA to create a new “Indian Energy Service Center” to expedite leasing, permitting, and reporting of energy development on tribal lands, which could benefit Fort Berthold.
Supports Continued Health Care for 9/11 First Responders – Permanently extends the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and provides a five-year extension of the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund (VCF). Together, these programs provide specialized health care services, such as chronic disease treatment, and compensation to the first responders and victims of the 9/11 terrorists attacks. To date, more than 33,000 program participants are suffering from illnesses or injuries as a result of the 9/11 attacks.
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