U.S. Senate $1.7 trillion spending package includes allocations for dozens of projects in Oregon

Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, is confident the bill will pass both chambers of Congress

By: - December 21, 2022 1:24 pm

Individual and corporate taxes pay for much of the U.S. government spending. (Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate’s $1.7 trillion government funding package released on Tuesday includes allocations for dozens of projects across Oregon.

The package, which excludes spending on mandatory programs like Medicare and Social Security, includes investments in clean water, transportation, education, health care, wildfire and housing.  

Every part of the state would win millions of dollars if the investments are approved, from $10.5 million for dredging in Coos Bay in southern Oregon to $5 million for the Oregon Food Bank and $6 million for housing and shelter in the Portland area. A $2.2 million sewer project in Carlton is included along with $5 million for clean drinking water for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in north-central Oregon. And millions more are allocated to projects in eastern Oregon, including $3.5 million for water improvements in Burns.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, said in a news conference, the bill includes 145 new projects for Oregon, with 111 backed by Merkley and Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who also gathers suggestions from residents at the town halls held in each county every year.

“I’m gratified the teamwork with Oregonians who know their local priorities best has produced such promising federal investments to strengthen communities all across Oregon,” Wyden said in a statement. “Our state’s communities are focused on coming together to forge Oregon Way solutions that build a better state just like these targeted investments, and I’ll keep battling to make sure these projects advance.”

List of projects:

For a list of many of the projects in Oregon, divided by region, go here.

Wyden is chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee while Merkley is the first Oregon senator since Republican Mark Hatfield in 1997 on the Appropriations Committee, which writes budget bills. He’s in a key spot to push Oregon investments as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.

“I am in the driver’s seat to help deliver on Oregon’s priorities, and that’s why this bill continues the transformative federal commitment to reducing the threat of wildfires,” Merkley said in a statement.

The funding package marks an increase in discretionary spending, with more than half going toward defense. In the last fiscal year, the U.S. had about $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending, with about $780 billion for defense. Last year’s total government spending exceeded revenues collected by the U.S. Treasury, which largely are made up of taxes paid by individuals and businesses.

Merkley said in the news conference he’s confident the bill will pass. 

“This final bill is assembled with the support of what’s called the ‘four corners,’ the leader of the House and Senate Dems and the leaders of the House and Senate Republicans,” Merkeley said. “Generally, when those four have agreed to the bill, it gets passed.” 

Merkley said the bill includes stepped up appropriation for wildfires through the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, and money to mitigate the effect of smoke on communities through the U.S. Forest Service and the Interior Department. Nearly $20 million will go toward watering monitoring in the Klamath Basin.

Tribal communities also benefit, Merkley said, with the bill allocating advance funding for the Indian Health Service.

“That’s a fancy way of saying that should the government shutdown in the future, it will not shut down the health clinics and health care services supporting Indian Country,” Merkley said. “That makes it parallel to the rest of our health care industry.” 

Though the package includes a $1.8 billion increase in funding for child care to a total of $8 billion, it does not reinstitute the enhanced child tax credit, which was part of Congress’s COVID funding. It raised the credit from $2,000 to $3,000 per child for children over 6 and from $2,000 to $3,600 for younger children. It also raised the age limit from 16 to 17. Supporters credited the increases with curbing child poverty in 2021.

The bill has gone to the U.S. House for review. Rep. Cliff Bentz, currently Oregon’s sole Republican representative in Congress, lashed out over the bill on Twitter, saying the 4,155 page document was dumped on U.S. lawmakers on an impossibly tight deadline. He did not respond to a request for comment by the Capital Chronicle.

Congress must pass the package before midnight Friday to avoid a partial government shutdown.

 

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.

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