Both of Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, made an imprint on a major appropriation bill that passed out of the Appropriations Committee last week. Each of the provisions in the bill impacted Mississippi through federal programs affecting jobs and quality of life.
Cochran, Republican ranking member of Appropriations, helped shape the bill in committee. The bill further implements a bill authored by Wicker, also a Republican, in 2012, the COASTAL Act, part of the Flood Insurance Modernization Act of 2012. The COASTAL Act authorizes the use of NOAA data in the claims process after natural disasters like hurricanes, “helping remedy the difficulties homeowners can face when property is totally destroyed and both wind and water were factors in the damage,” a release from Cochran’s office explained.
In broad terms, the bills approved in committee are important to Mississippians because they would fund the National Flood Insurance Program, NASA’s Space Launch System and U.S. Coast Guard shipbuilding.
Cochran supported the bills available with the understanding that funding in both measures may need to be adjusted to fit within the discretionary spending caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
All the programs funded underscore Mississippi’s continuing reliance on federal investment despite the frequent tiresome and fatuous criticism by some in state government. Aid is seldom refused and the jobs produced with the revenue usually are used as political capital by candidates in both parties.
The bills would fund the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, NASA rocket engine test programs, Coast Guard activities and ship procurement, as well as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration programs.
The bill contains more than $700 million for the construction of another new National Security Cutter for the U.S. Coast Guard at Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula and an outlay for future expenditures on another cutter. The 412-foot vessels cost $632 million each. The work sustains the employment of thousands.
The Ingalls Shipyard is producing at least eight NSCs to meet mission requirements.
The bills contain $1.6 billion in the $18 billion NASA appropriation for the Space Launch System partially under development at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.
Other spending also is related to Mississippi:
• FEMA Disaster Relief Fund: $6.2 billion, of which $5.6 billion to support estimated costs associated with an average disaster year.
• NASA: $1.6 billion to continue Space Launch System development, and $3.9 billion for Space Operations and $586.9 million for NASA Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration, which also involve the Stennis Space Center.
• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.5 billion overall for NOAA, including $28.2 million to support the National Data Buoy Center located at the Stennis Space Center.
• COASTAL Act (Wicker bill): The bill includes language to ensure NOAA continues to work toward implementation of the COASTAL Act, helping remedy the difficulties homeowners can face when property is totally destroyed and both wind and water were factors in the damage.
• Fisheries Disaster Funding: $150 million in NOAA funding for fisheries disasters including the commercial oyster and blue crab disaster declared for Mississippi.
Mississippi’s congressional delegation historically has demonstrated unusual skill in the appropriations process, and in austere times the asset is doubly valuable.