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December 22, 2022

Annual Spending Bill Passes Senate with King-Backed Initiatives to Support Maine Jobs, Bolster National Defense

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today voted along with sixty-seven of his Senate colleagues to pass the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which funds government programs through next September and advances a number of Senator King’s policy priorities. The annual funding bill will support Maine jobs, increase affordability for working families, and invest in our national security. The bill is expected to pass the House by the end of the week.

“The 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill includes a wide range of provisions to strengthen Maine communities, protect our economy, and improve life for people across the state,” said Senator King. “This forward-thinking legislation supports high-paying jobs for Maine people, whether it be at Bath Iron Works or one of our craft breweries, and will help working Maine families afford essential needs, like housing and child care. The bill also takes important steps to enhance our national security by funding shipbuilding priorities, stopping illegal drug imports, and bolstering America’s leadership in global public health. Finally, it invests in Maine’s greatest outdoor natural resources by designating the York River as ‘wild and scenic,’ expanding affordable worker housing on Mount Desert Island, and increasing the amount of staff at National Parks. There is so much worth celebrating in the bill, and all told, I’m grateful to see this bipartisan product pass the Senate. I am eager to continue working across the aisle with my colleagues in the coming year on more policies that help Maine people.”

Provisions supported by Senator King included in the legislative package include:

Defending Democracy and Securing Elections. Nearly two years after insurrectionists on January 6th tried to use the 1887 Electoral Count Act to overturn a free and fair election, the spending bill modernizes the outdated law to protect the will of voters by updating procedures for the counting and certification of electoral votes for the presidency. This effort incorporates many proposals from Senator King’s discussion draft Electoral Count Act reforms from February.

Pausing Devastating Lobster Gear Regulations. Senator King and the Maine Delegation secured a provision in the bill to pause looming lobster gear regulations that would have damaging impacts on thousands of Maine families and businesses. As King explained on the Senate Floor earlier this week, the proposed regulations were not based on any substantial evidence, ignored conservation efforts by lobstermen, and would have been an economic death sentence for thousands of Maine families that make up the lobster industry.  

Aiding Local Maine Nonprofits. The FY23 Omnibus spending bill includes 140 of Senator King’s Congressionally Directed Spending items, totaling over $250 million. This money will go to nonprofits and local governments in Maine to fund a broad range of community projects, including expanding workforce development initiatives, supporting health care providers, fixing roads, upgrading fire stations, and preserving historical sites.

Funding Shipbuilding and Coast Guard Priorities. The legislation appropriates funding for the procurement of 3 DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in fiscal year 2023, which Bath Iron Works (BIW) can compete to build. The package also funds advanced procurement of a fourth DDG-51 and $380 million to enhance shipyard infrastructure for ongoing and future shipbuilding programs. The bill also invests in the Maine Coast Guard with $11.6 billion for USCG operations and assets like increased fuel costs, acquisitions, vessels, aircraft, facilities related to USCG’s mission, search and rescue, drug interdiction, marine safety, environmental protection, and fisheries enforcement.

Supporting Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. With Russia’s bloody, unprovoked attack on Ukraine in its tenth month and winter setting in, the legislation includes an additional $45 billion in aid to help brave Ukrainians continue to fight for their freedom and stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s empire-building ambitions.

Protecting Veterans’ Physical and Mental Health. The bill makes significant steps towards meeting America’s commitment to those who served. Along with providing funding for the veterans healthcare expansions in the PACT Act, it expands support for Department of Veterans Affairs rural healthcare, mental health programs, women’s health programs, homelessness prevention, and IT services benefiting Maine Veterans

Spotlighting and Supporting the York River. The bill would designate portions of the York River as part of the National Park System’s “Wild and Scenic” Rivers program. This designation helps protect the river from future development and provides federal funding to the region. Senator King introduced the study bill in 2013, and the designation is the result of more than decade of community-driven efforts to designate and protect the river.

Supporting National Park Staffing and Addressing Employee Housing. The legislation transfers an undeveloped parcel of land in the Village of Town Hill from Acadia National Park to the Town of Bar Harbor to develop affordable housing; the remainder of the parcel will be used by NPS to construct staff housing for park service employees. The bill also provides funding for an additional 500 full time equivalents (FTEs) at the National Park Service.

Reauthorizing and Expanding the National Park Foundation. The bill reauthorizes the National Park Foundation (NPF) through FY2030 and expands its authorized funding from $5 million to $15 million – a continued priority for National Parks Subcommittee Chairman King. NPF uses its funding to match private donations, so this expanded federal funding will likely result in increased private, matched donations to protect America’s greatest treasures substantially.

Addressing the Climate Crisis. The omnibus includes the Growing Climate Solutions Act which will help Maine forest owners and farmers access existing carbon markets that will provide financial benefits for sustainable farming practices. Through the program, USDA will help connect landowners to private sector groups who can assist the landowners in implementing the practices that capture carbon, reduce emissions, improve soil health, and make operations more sustainable.

Supporting Maine Families and Children. The bill extends nutrition programs including a $13.4 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, $28.5 billion for Child Nutrition Programs, and $6 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The bill also includes a $7.67 billion investment for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and nearly $12 billion for Head Start. The bill includes increases for the maximum Pell Grant award to over $7,000, allocates $18.387 billion for Title I-A grants, and delivers $1.2 billion for TRIO to support more than 800,000 low-income first generation students get into college and succeed when they’re there. 

Making Housing More Accessible and Affordable. With Maine facing an affordable housing crisis, the omnibus provides housing assistance including $3.6 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, $2 billion for the Rural Housing Service, $1.5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, $1.435 billion for the Housing for the Elderly and Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, and new incremental Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers to support over 11,700 additional low-income households. These funds will support renters in Maine’s towns, help retain the stock of rental housing in rural Maine, and construct and rehabilitate new rural rental properties. The bill also provides $5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help families address the rising cost of energy.

Boosting the Tourism Industry. The legislation includes the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act, which Senator King led with a bipartisan group of colleagues. This includes the King-led Visit America Act, which would coordinate national tourism policy, develop the tourism workforce for Maine, and bring more visitors, ultimately fueling the state economy.

Improving National and Global Health Infrastructure. The omnibus makes bold investments in health care and research including $47.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $9.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $1.5 billion for ARPA-H (President Biden’s initiative to develop cutting edge treatments against cancer and other illnesses), and $950 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. As a member of the NIH Caucus, Senator King routinely advocates for the agency and it’s vital work to improve our understanding of, and capacity to, treat disease and illness.

Ensuring Access to Healthcare and Telehealth in Rural Communities. The bill increases Medicare payments to healthcare providers, and avoids across the board cuts to Medicare programs, ensuring vital healthcare services remain viable in rural communities. The legislation also extends telehealth flexibilities that are currently tied to the pandemic until the end of 2024. Without this extension, the policies that have enabled the rapid rise of telehealth would expire with the existing public health emergency. Senator King pushed for this continuation and will continue to advocate for permanent expansions.

Strengthening Law Enforcement and Improving Public Safety. The bill provides $231 million for State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office grant programs related to police-community relations. The bill contains $700 million, the highest funding level ever, for grants provided by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The legislation also includes $4.9 billion to address the opioid crisis, including funding for the Opioid Response Grant, and the CDC overdose surveillance and prevention program. The bill also provides extra funding to the Department of Defense for anti-drug operations and coordination.

Investing in American-Made Businesses and Products. The spending bill includes $500 million for the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program, to provide planning grants to create geographically-distributed “regional technology hubs” authorized under the CHIPS for America Act. Focusing on technology development, job creation, and expanding U.S. innovation capacity, this program will accelerate technology development in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, communications, and biotech in order to address the growing geographical divides in the U.S. innovation sector. The bill also includes $1.2 billion in funding for the Small Business Administration (SBA). Senator King also specifically requested and received a nearly seven percent ($20 million) increase to Entrepreneurial Development Programs, which help new businesses in Maine start and thrive.

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