Rep. Courtney Secures Second District Priorities in Final Negotiated Spending Packages for FY2020
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) voted to pass the final negotiated spending packages to fund the government in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. Together, these measures contain several initiatives to support programs and priorities in eastern Connecticut that Congressman Courtney fought for in the bill, and throughout the year-long budget process.
“Today’s passage of a bipartisan appropriations package that avoids a costly shutdown and keeps America open for business is a clear sign that the House of Representatives is continuing to produce real results for the American people,” said Congressman Courtney. “This package makes long-overdue progress on some of my top priorities in Congress, such as repealing the so-called ‘Cadillac Tax’, supporting the ramp-up in submarine construction and investment, and supporting communities in our region facing the crumbling foundations crisis. With passage of these bills, we are closing the year out strong for eastern Connecticut, and I am proud of the year-long work this measure represents in our first year in the new House majority.”
Throughout the year, the House completed work on ten the twelve funding measures included in this package, in addition to other legislative measures attached to the final agreement today. The Senate, however, passed only four of the twelve funding measures contained in today’s legislative package.
Some of Congressman Courtney’s top highlights in the packages include:
Supports our Region’s Undersea Priorities– The agreement backs Congressman Courtney’s efforts to invest in the growing workload and workforce at the Groton shipyard and its state-wide supply chain, and largely reflects the funding levels authorized in the 2020 Defense Authorization Conference Report he helped pass last week. As Chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, Courtney worked with House appropriators to ensure strong support for these priorities during deliberation of the budget this year. These include:
- Virginia-Class Submarine - $8.4 billion for two Virginia-class submarines in 2020 and advanced procurement for additional submarines in 2021 and 2022, aligned with the recent Block V contract announcement. Like the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report, the agreement also provides $200 million in advanced procurement specifically to support the tenth option boat in the contract and an additional $100 million to accelerate development of additional capabilities in future submarines.
- Columbia-Class Submarine - nearly $2.4 billion for the Columbia-class submarine, including $1.8 billion in advanced procurement to support construction start of next year and $548 million for continued research and development. The total includes an additional $123 million for continued development of the submarine supplier base, matching a provision Courtney helped secure in the 2020 NDAA.
- Academic Partnerships for Undersea Research - $10 million, matching the 2020 NDAA, to support partnerships with academic institutions that conduct research on undersea unmanned warfare and energy technology. This could support efforts like the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology, a collaborative program between the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island.
- Submarine industrial base workforce training - $8 million to support workforce training programs to help support expansion of the skilled submarine workforce as the industrial base ramps up construction of the Columbia-class program. Courtney led a bicameral letter of the Connecticut and Rhode Island delegations in support of this funding – click here to read his letter.
- Pier 32 Replacement at SUBASE New London - $72.3 million to replace the aging Pier 32 at the base. The new pier will be longer and wider that than the existing pier, allowing adequate space to fully support modern Virginia-class submarines.
Bolsters Supports for Workforce Development – The spending agreement increases supports for workforce initiatives across eastern Connecticut by increasing funding for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programming to $2.8 billion and Registered Apprenticeships to $175 million. The bill also invests in financial aid for low-income students, by increasing by $150 the maximum Pell Grant award, for a total of $6,345 for the 2020-21 school year.
Invests in K-12 Education – The spending agreement includes major investments in K-12 education supports, which is welcome news to school districts across the region. The package increases funding for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies by $450 million, for a total of $16.3 billion, and boosts IDEA Grants to States by $400 million, for a total of $12.8 billion.
Boost for Federally Protected Rivers and Watersheds - $3.6 million for the Partnership Wild & Scenic River Program, the largest amount of money the program has ever received. Courtney worked to include funding for the program to ensure that funding would support every river in the program. This funding level will increase funding for older Wild & Scenic Rivers, like the Eightmile River, and will provide new funding for those added to the program in February like the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed. Earlier this month, Courtney joined Senator Menendez (D-NJ) in leading a bicameral letter of support for this funding level – click here to read their letter.
Protects Plum Island – The agreement retains a bipartisan amendment Courtney joined Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) in passing in the House in June to block the federal government from taking steps to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder. Read more about the amendment here.
Support for Crumbling Foundations – The final agreement includes three provisions Courtney advocated for to continue federal efforts to support eastern Connecticut’s crumbling foundations crisis:
- Federal Funding for Pyrrhotite Research – The agreement includes $1.5 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct research on the effects of the mineral pyrrhotite on concrete aggregate. NIST is the leading federal expert in cement and concrete standards, and this federal funding will help NIST to develop a cost-effective and standard testing method for at-risk homes and other structures for the presence of the mineral pyrrhotite. The amendment also requires NIST to create a risk-rating scale so that homeowners, businesses, and local government have a better understanding of what quantity of pyrrhotite poses a danger to their foundation’s structural integrity. Click here for a statement from Rep. Courtney, Rep. Larson, and Senators Blumenthal and Murphy on the inclusion of this funding.
- Extension of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Tax Deduction – The measure includes an extension of the mortgage debt forgiveness tax provision, which protects those who have foreclosed or had a short sale on their homes from having the forgiven debt treated as federal income for tax purposes. The provision, which is extended back to 2018 and prospectively through 2020, is one way that homeowners who are facing crumbling foundations can seek federal relief. Earlier this year, Courtney joined Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) in introducing legislation, HR 1977, to extend this provision.
- Increased Federal Housing Funds for Connecticut – The package totally rejects the Trump Administration's proposal to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Instead, the measure increases the CDBG program by $100 million from FY2019 levels. According to an analysis by the House Appropriations Committee, Connecticut is slated to receive $1.2 million in additional CDBG funds in 2020 as a result of this funding increase. In 2016, Congressman Courtney's office identified the CDBG program as an option for the state to utilize federal funds to respond to Crumbling Foundations, and has repeatedly urged State officials to maximize the use of this annual federal funding to respond to the crisis.
Increases funding for Sea Grant - The package includes $87 million--a nine percent increase in overall funding--for the National Sea Grant College Program and the Marine Aquaculture Program. Sea Grant is a national network comprised of 33 Sea Grant programs based at flagship universities in coastal and Great Lake states throughout the United States. Connecticut Sea Grant is based out of UCONN Avery Point and utilizes its NOAA funding to support fisheries and aquaculture education and outreach throughout the state. In April, Courtney led a bipartisan letter in support of funding for the Sea Grant program – click here to see that letter.
Continues Funding for the National Coast Guard Museum – The package includes $5 million in federal funds to continue supporting development of exhibits and preservation of artifacts at the future museum in New London. Courtney helped secure a critical change in law in 2016 to ensure that the Coast Guard can provide funding for “the design, fabrication, and installation of exhibits or displays in which such artifacts are included. In November, Courtney wrote to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging inclusion of the Senate-passed funding, secured by Senator Chris Murphy, in the final measure. Click here to read that letter.
Supports Volunteer First Responders and Gold Star Families – The agreement includes the text of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019, which includes a one year restoration of the volunteer firefighter and medical first responders benefits tax exclusion, supported by Courtney and led by Rep. John Larson (CT-01) and provides a fix for Gold Star families that were hit with new taxes on their survivor benefits as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the 2018 tax reform package.
Largest Military and Civilian Pay Increase in a Decade – The agreement codifies a 3.1% pay increase for military servicemembers and federal civilian employees in 2020. While the Trump Administration has repeatedly attempted to limit or cancel federal civilian pay raises, Courtney has backed efforts to reject these proposals and provide adequate support for our hard-working federal civilians.
Repeals the “Cadillac Tax” - The agreement includes Congressman Courtney’s legislation to repeal the so-called “Cadillac Tax” on health plans. For nearly a decade, Courtney has led a bipartisan effort, backed by a broad range of labor, business and patient groups, to repeal this misguided policy. The House backed his bill in June in a 419-6 vote, and the language in the agreement today is identical to that bill. Click here to read his statement about inclusion of the repeal in the end of the year agreement. You can also find more information about Congressman Courtney’s work to repeal the Cadillac Tax at his website, https://courtney.house.gov/issues/repeal-the-Cadillac-Tax.