Says Worthy Tennessee Projects Are No Excuse for Adding $236 Billion in Spending to the Bill “in the Middle of the Night”
Posted on December 13, 2009
|WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that he voted against the $445 billion Consolidated Appropriations bill because it includes $236 billion in spending that was suddenly added by a committee—that only met last Tuesday night—without being considered or debated by the full U.S. Senate.
“$236 billion was added to this bill in the middle of the night on matters never considered by the full Senate. This is no way to manage federal spending,” Alexander said. “I’m glad this bill contains funding that I requested for worthy projects in Tennessee, but I can’t support hundreds of billions of dollars of spending that has never even seen the light of day.”
On Friday, Alexander voted in support of an effort by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to strike from the bill spending provisions that had not been considered by the full U.S. Senate. That effort was defeated on a near-party line vote of 36-60.
Alexander noted that the Consolidated Appropriations bill (H.R. 3288) includes six separate appropriations measures with funding through the end of Fiscal Year 2010 – the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, and the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill – that include funding for several projects in Tennessee.
The bill passed by a vote of 57 to 35. It will now be sent to the President for his signature to become law.
Key Tennessee projects funded in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill include:
• $6.625 million for the Tennessee Statewide Mass Transportation Program. Funding will be used to purchase and improve mass transit systems across the state of Tennessee – including busing and light rail. This will reduce congestion in Tennessee’s cities as well as help provide hospital transportation for rural Tennesseans.
• $1.5 million for runway reconstruction at Nashville International Airport. Funding will be used to upgrade a runway so it can better accommodate larger freight and passenger aircraft to meet the air transport demands for Nashville, one of the South’s fastest growing cities.
• $200,000 for Waterville Road improvements in Cocke County. Funding will help repair the Waterville Road, which is heavily impacted by tourists visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is partly within county limits.
• $785,000 for East Chester Road improvements in the City of Jackson. Funding will be used to improve East Chester Street and help spur redevelopment of East Jackson. East Chester Street was devastated by a tornado in May 2003.
• $1.5 million for Airport Road improvements in the City of Gallatin. Funding will be used to redirect the airport road to make additional space for an expanded runway to accommodate increasing commercial aircraft traffic.
• $1.5 million for the U.S. 70 bridge in DeKalb County. Funding will be used to repair the bridge. It is structurally sound, but was built in 1947 and is in serious need of repair. It is the only bridge across Center Hill Lake on the eastern end of DeKalb County and the only way for school buses and traffic to cross from the other side of the lake.
• $500,000 for U.S. Highway 51 in Shelby County. Funding will be used to improve U.S. 51 in South Memphis, which is part of a broader initiative to revitalize one of the most visited areas in the city.
Key Tennessee projects funded in the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill include:
• $2 million for the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force. This funding will be used to train and equip local law enforcement officers throughout the State of Tennessee in a cooperative effort to combat the manufacture, distribution and use of methamphetamine, both domestic and foreign. The Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force partners with different law enforcement agencies, first responders, social workers, health professionals, the National Guard, community groups and environmental agencies.
• $1 million for Operation Safe Community (Anti-Gang Task Force) in Shelby County. Funding provides support for law enforcement operations to fight gang-related and violent crime. Operation Safe Community is a joint initiative between The City of Memphis, Shelby County, The Shelby County District Attorney General, the United States Attorney for West Tennessee and the University of Memphis in conjunction with law enforcement and business leadership.
• $1 million for Atmospheric Science Research at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. This project will fund specialized equipment used in atmospheric testing, which is vital to the collection of atmospheric data needed to better understand climate and weather issues. According to NOAA, the Southeast region suffers from more climate-related natural disasters than any other region of the United States.
• $500,000 for Bridge Builders – At Risk Youth College Prep Education Program in Memphis. Funding will be used to expand educational opportunities and support for at-risk youth to encourage high school graduation and promote college enrollment. 100% of the students who complete the Bridge Builders Program graduate high school and 97% go on to college. The program currently serves 1,500 students each year.
• $500,000 for the Laser Physics Project at Austin Peay State University. This laser physics program will prepare students at Austin Peay State University to use the same tools used in the solar cell industry and help provide a well-trained workforce for the growing solar industry in Tennessee.
Key Tennessee projects included in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill include:
• $750,000 for the Pellissippi Research Centre on the Oak Ridge Corridor. The purpose of the Pellissippi Centre is to establish a research and development (R&D) campus strategically located between the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL), which is a federal facility whose mandate from the U.S. Dept of Energy is to advance scientific discovery for the benefit of the American economy. The Pellissippi Centre will enable private sector development of new products and services based on basic scientific research at ORNL and UT.
Key Tennessee projects included in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill include:
• $1.35 million for primary care physician training at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. This funding will update facilities and allow for more physician residencies at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Currently, there is a shortage of primary care physicians in Tennessee, and increased residencies will help UT to be able to train more primary care physicians.
• $500,000 for emergency room modernization at Jellico Community Hospital. Funding will help improve the emergency room facility at Jellico Community Hospital which provides services worth more than $3 million annually to those who cannot afford to pay. This hospital is located in a rural, underserved area, and the emergency department provides essential care.
• $3.1 million for the physician training center at St. Jude Children’s Medical Center. Funds will help construct a new training center that will be used by scientists, physicians, clinicians and medical students to learn about the research advances pioneered at St. Jude, the only National Cancer Institute-designated pediatric Comprehensive Cancer Center in the country.
• $150,000 for the Tennessee oral health project administered by the Tennessee Department of Health. Funding would be used to purchase new equipment or update existing equipment to put fluoride in drinking water at water plants in Tennessee. Already this fiscal year, three sites serving 64,000 Tennesseans need to replace aging equipment.
• $750,000 for science and math teacher training at Middle Tennessee State University. Funding will be used to develop and commence a new degree program for students that will become elementary and middle-school teachers that specialize in teaching science, technology and math.
• $400,000 for nurse training at Southwest Tennessee Community College. Funds will help build a facility to accommodate almost double the number of nursing students currently at Southwest Tennessee Community College, thereby increasing the number of available nurses in the community. Shelby County has the greatest shortage of nurses among Tennessee counties. More than 95 percent of Southwest’s graduates remain in Memphis and the surrounding area.
Key Tennessee projects included in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill include:
• $9.8 million for the 164th Airlift Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard in Memphis. Funding will be used for a new maintenance facility for eight C-5 aircraft which are used to transport personnel and heavy equipment around the world. This facility will also house offices, classrooms and storage space as well as electrical generators for the base which was recently moved to a different location at Memphis International Airport.
• $6.8 million for the Language Training Facility for the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell. Funding will be used for the classrooms, language labs, and equipment at Fort Campbell used to train members of the 5th Special Forces Group in critical foreign languages. More than 25 percent of Special Forces personnel are required to have foreign-language training.
In addition, $56.2 million was included in the bill for Fort Campbell:
• $29.3 million for Special Operations Battalion Operations Complex at Fort Campbell
• $3 million for the Special Operations Military Working Dog Facility at Fort Campbell
• $8.6 million for the Health Clinic at Fort Campbell
• $14.4 million for the Installation Chapel Center at Fort Campbell
• $900,000 for the Warrior Rehabilitation and Fitness Center at Fort Campbell