When I came to the Senate, I promised West Virginians that I would take meaningful action on the issues that are important to our state.
One way I’ve worked to deliver on this promise is through my position on the Appropriations Committee, where I’ve made sure West Virginia has a loud and strong voice when it comes to determining our nation’s spending priorities.
At the end of last year, the Senate passed and President Trump signed into law several important Appropriations packages, which include a lot of support for West Virginia priorities.
As a leader on the Appropriations Committee, my job is to ensure that your tax dollars are appropriately spent. I was proud that we were able to find compromise and secure funds for programs that almost everyone can identify with, including:
— The largest pay raise for our military members.
— More than $500 million in funding to fight the opioid epidemic.
— An increase of $350 million for Alzheimer’s research.
— $81 billion for healthcare for our veterans at VA centers.
As Chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I’ve worked closely with the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make sure they have the resources needed to do their job, stem the tide of illegal immigration, and stop the flow of drugs into West Virginia.
Throughout the entire Appropriations process, I made it a priority to advocate for all of West Virginia — including the north central region. And, there are many wins included in the spending bills to show for this.
For starters, the bills included $550 million for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect program, which I created through the Appropriations process and helped secure funds for in numerous appropriations bills. So far, I’ve announced three ReConnect grants for West Virginia— most recently for Harrison Rural Electrification Association for a project that will provide service to thousands of residents and was one of the largest grants awarded in the nation for this program.
ReConnect and other USDA broadband grant programs will be essential in helping to implement broadband in our rural areas and tackle some of these challenges head-on.
When it comes to economic development, I fought hard to make sure critical programs like the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) are properly funded to ensure they have the resources to continue to grow and diversify the economy of northern West Virginia.
EDA has provided funding for many economic development projects throughout the state like the construction of the Innovation and Knowledge Business Center in Upshur County. Projects like this have long-lasting impacts, as they help foster the entrepreneurial spirit that we are seeing more and more of throughout the state and should continue to promote.
EDA and ARC have also been critical partners for the North Central West Virginia Airport in Clarksburg and the Aerospace Education Center, providing critical resources for infrastructure and workforce investment that will support the growing aerospace economy in the region.
The Clarksburg airport is proof that our region’s airports can be economic drivers and employment bases for manufacturing and repair in addition to providing local residents access to commercial air service.
These bills also include $100 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System, which will help continue construction of Corridor H, as well as significant funding for bridge infrastructure.
As chairman of the EPW Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, this was something I prioritized and advocated for strongly during the appropriations process.
Projects like Corridor H are not only beneficial for travelers and those living in nearby communities, but they have the potential to substantially improve our state’s commerce and economic potential by connecting West Virginia to other transportation hubs across the nation.
Another example is the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) facility in Clarksburg. This facility, and its partner, the Department of Defenses’ (DOD) Biometric Technology Center (DFBA) — which is also on CJIS’s campus — develop innovative and collaborative solutions every day that will keep our country safe.
To support these efforts, the Appropriations package includes funding that will be used toward FBI salaries, expenses, and construction, and allows DFBA to continue their unique work.
But, these aren’t the only facilities that benefit from these packages. These bills provide important funds for the Katherine Johnson IV&V and NOAA facilities — both housed in the I-79 Technology Park in Fairmont.
NOAA houses some of the most critical cybersecurity infrastructure and weather data in the entire country, and the Katherine Johnson IV&V facility engineers the critical systems and software for NASA’s missions, space exploration, and robotic programs, so this funding is essential in continuing these efforts.
Fairmont is also home to the West Virginia Robotics Technology Center (WVRTC), which has partnered with MAXAR technologies to build and operate SPIDER, a revolutionary in-space robotic system that has the potential to prolong the lives of satellites in orbit. Funding included in the appropriations packages for NASA Restore-L supports this program at WVRTC.
This is the kind of work Congress is capable of doing — and should be doing.
These funding bills provide much-needed support to communities and programs all across our state, but my work is far from done. I will keep working hard to advocate for West Virginians and drive funding to our state that will ultimately make our communities stronger.