U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today that the Senate-passed Bipartisan Budget Act contains a number of important Kentucky priorities he helped secure. The measure also passed the House and was signed into law by President Donald Trump.
“As the Senate Majority Leader, I am pleased to announce that our bipartisan, bicameral agreement on defense spending and other Kentucky priorities was signed by President Trump,”Senator McConnell said. “This bill ensures that, for the first time in years, from Fort Campbell to Fort Knox to the Blue Grass Army Depot, our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep America safe. This bill will also help us serve the veterans who have bravely served us. Further, the legislation provides significant new resources to help communities across Kentucky that continue to suffer from the heroin and opioid epidemic. Our military, veterans, and families across the Commonwealth deserve the assistance the Bipartisan Budget Act provides.”
The Bipartisan Budget Act also included a measure secured by Senator McConnell—and supported by Rep. Andy Barr (KY-06) that protects students at Berea College by allowing the college to continue offering tuition-free education to low-income students without a new tax on its endowment.
The measure also included the following items supported by Senator McConnell that will benefit Kentucky:
Serving Our Defense and Veterans Communities
· Allows for the full funding levels recommended by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. This will help improve readiness for our armed forces and ensure our men and women in uniform – including the servicemembers based at Fort Campbell, Fort Knox, and the Blue Grass Army Depot – receive the support and pay they have earned.
· Includes a commitment to work with appropriators to direct funding to reduce the Department of Veterans Affairs’ healthcare maintenance backlog.
· Breaks the spending “parity” demanded for years by Democrats by giving defense a larger funding increase than non-defense discretionary spending.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
· Includes the enhancement of regional partnership grants that Senator McConnell has supported to improve the well-being of families affected by opioid and other substance abuse.
· Builds on Senator McConnell’s efforts of securing past funding agreements and legislation to combat the opioid crisis such as the 21st Century Cures Act. This budget agreement includes a commitment to work with appropriators to direct $6 billion over two years to combat opioid and substance abuse with additional grants for treatment and prevention programs, and more resources for law enforcement efforts.
Helping Children and Families
· Extends the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) for four additional years, totaling 10 years, giving thousands of Kentucky children and families’ certainty and peace of mind.
· Extends the Special Diabetes Program for two years to ensure the critical research on the prevention and cure of Type 1 diabetes for the thousands of Kentuckians impacted by this disease.
· Helps strengthen families by providing flexibility to states so they can provide upfront, evidence-based prevention services to children and families at risk of entering the foster care system.
· Provides funding through FY 2022 for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home and Visiting Program, which provides funding to states for home visiting services that promote maternal and infant health.
· Includes a commitment to work with appropriators to direct $2.9 billion for FY 2018 and $2.9 billion for FY 2019 for child care programs.
· Protects Berea College – which offers tuition-free education to low-income students in Appalachia – from a new tax on the school’s endowment.
· Includes a provision to support Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC) and their students at their five campuses in Cumberland, Harlan, Middlesboro, Pineville, and Whitesburg, by providing flexibility to the U.S. Department of Education to account for economic conditions when deciding which schools may continue participating in the federal student aid program.
· Provides a one-year retroactive extension of “above-the-line” deduction for qualified tuition and higher education expenses for Kentucky students.
· Benefits the National Health Service Corps and teaching health centers that operate the Graduate Medical Education program with the preservation of loan repayment programs for health providers who choose to work in underserved areas —like Eastern Kentucky—and preserves funding for hospitals that train residents.
Providing Tax Relief
· Provides a one-year retroactive extension of a number of tax incentives that benefit Kentucky families and businesses, including the following:
o Tax relief for mortgage debt forgiveness for Kentucky homeowners.
o Empowerment zone tax incentives to help economically distressed regions in Eastern Kentucky.
o Enhanced the carbon dioxide sequestration credit for clean coal technology pilots and smaller projects to qualify.
· Important to Kentucky’s research universities, the two year budget agreement includes a commitment to increase funding to support scientific research by the National Institutes of Health.
· In Kentucky, heart disease and stroke are two of the top leading causes of death. This bill will expand access to the intensive cardiac rehabilitation programs that so many Kentuckians rely on.
· Supports the dozens of Community Health Centers (CHC) in Kentucky that provide care to some of the most vulnerable populations and many of the rural and underserved areas have come to rely on.
· Repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) to provide seniors with certainty the future of Medicare will not be left in the hands of a board of unelected officials.
· Secures many important Medicare provisions that will help ensure seniors receive high quality care and sustains the long term sustainability of the program.
· Includes a commitment to invest in infrastructure, including programs related to rural water and wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband, energy, and surface transportation.