House-Passed Package of Appropriations Bills Supports NJ Priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The House today approved a package – commonly called a “mini-bus” – of three fiscal year 2019 Appropriations bills, including Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the Legislative Branch.

In total, the package provides $145.4 billion in discretionary funding, with the majority of this funding supporting our national defense and veterans, including New Jersey priorities.

“These bills provide funding to rebuild our military infrastructure, support military families, improve nuclear security, support our nation’s energy and water infrastructure, and assure the smooth and safe operations of the Legislative Branch,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) said. “This legislation begins the Appropriations process for this fiscal year, and sends the message that Congress is here to get our work done on behalf of the American people. We are committed to keeping the government open and functional with legislative action and responsible levels of funding.”

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill includes strong funding for the Army Corps of Engineers – $451 million more than last year. Projects supported by this funding are vital to “keeping our local port, the New York-New Jersey harbor, open for business, and to protect people, businesses, and infrastructure from damages caused by floods and coastal storms.”

Army Corps funding also supports:

-Construction funding for the Green Brook Sub-Basin flood control project ($5 mil) and funds for monitoring of the Passaic River Flood Warning System;

-Requires the Army Corps to update Congress with regular status update on the Passaic River Basin Mainstem project, the Peckman River project and the Rahway river project;

-$2.1 billion to support public health and safety by funding flood and storm damage reduction activities, an increase of $190 million above fiscal year 2018 and $647 million above the President’s budget request; 

In addition, the legislation includes $590 million for Fusion Energy Sciences, which is $57 million above current levels. This funding supports work at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.

The Military Construction- Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill includes a total of $194.5 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for VA, an increase of $9 billion above current levels. This funding will help address many of the problems currently facing VA, and provide for better and increased access to care for our veterans at the Lyons and East Orange VA Medical Centers.

“These additional funds will provide resources for important priorities within the VA, such as health care access, suicide prevention outreach, claims processing, homeless prevention and care, opioid addiction, and medical research.”

The bill also contains $1.2 billion for the new VA electronic health record system. This will ensure the implementation of the contract creating an electronic record system for VA that is identical to one being developed for Department of Defense (DOD). These two identical systems will help ensure our veterans get proper care, with timely and accurate medical data transferred between the VA, DOD, and the private sector.

Reducing the disability claims backlog is essential to ensuring adequate compensation and care for the more than 450,000 veterans still wading through the VA bureaucracy to get a final decision on their claims. The bill will help speed this process and get veterans the decisions they are awaiting by providing $53 million above the  request for the Veterans Benefits Administration, and $14 million above the 2018 level for the Board of Veterans Appeals, to be used for hiring additional claims and appellate staff, digital scanning of health records, and overtime pay.

In addition, New Jersey’s largest military bases will receive new construction funding under the legislation which includes $41 million to build a “Munitions Disassembly Complex” at Picatinny Arsenal and $10.2 million to replace a “Hot Cargo Hydrant System” at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL). 

“This new military construction funding for both the New Jersey’s Joint Base and Picatinny is an endorsement of these installations’ current and future military value. Ensuring that the proper resources are available to conduct successful missions from New Jersey is vital.”