OUR OPINION: Appropriations Committee advances state funds

By NEMS Daily Journal

The federal government’s extraordinary importance in the everyday life of Mississippians is almost staggering in its depth and complexity because so many services and programs taken for granted originate with the congressional delegation.
All four House members and both U.S. senators can claim due credit every year through their committees and networking with colleagues in gaining new or sustaining appropriations our state needs and for initiatives sent to them from the state and local governments.
Last week, Sen. Thad Cochran, our state’s senior Republican delegation member, announced through his Washington office that the Appropriations Committee, of which he is the ranking member (the de facto vice chairman and senior minority party position) had advanced funding for transportation and flood control, both categories in which Mississippi has a huge stake.
Cochran had earlier voted to retain lower spending caps set in the Budget Control Act.
However, the federal pipeline contains funding for major flood control and transportation programs in Mississippi:
• FY2014 Energy and Water Development Appropriations provides funding to support Mississippi River and Tributaries (MRT) Project activities carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The work involves levees, ports, dredging, channel improvements, inspections and studies. The Senate bill provides $5.2 billion for the Army Corps, including $1 billion for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and $380 million to continue ongoing flood control construction work. The bill has $279 million for MRT Project activities.
• Importantly for several state airports, including Tupelo Regional, the committee-approved Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill contains about $280 million nationwide for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program and FAA contract towers.
• Army Corps of Engineers Research & Development: $17.9 million for research and development activities, much of which is carried out at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg.
• Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Infrastructure: $50 million is provided to support drinking and wastewater infrastructures nationwide. The committee accepted Cochran language that encourages the Corps to set aside 15 percent of this funding for rural and undeserved communities.
• Regional Commissions: $68 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission (Northeast Mississippi included) and $12 million for the Delta Regional Authority.
• Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant: $3.1 billion for the CDBG program, which is used by many Mississippi communities.
It’s easy to cuss Washington’s policies; it’s hard to get by without federal money.