Hayes votes against bill that cut local projects

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Robin Hayes (N.C.-8) rejected a funding bill that eliminated key military and infrastructure projects important to North Carolina’s Eighth District, specifically funding for Concord Regional Airport, Highway 3 and first responder communications equipment.

“There are too many critical needs that will go unfulfilled to justify abandoning the normal appropriations process,” said Hayes. “While I was pleased to see additional funding for veterans health care and defense health program spending, I could not support legislation that short-changed critical military and infrastructure needs for Cabarrus County and the entire Eighth District. The biggest insult of all is that the new congressional leadership cut our local projects while boosting foreign aid. I think that was a display of bad priorities.”

Hayes and local leaders in Cabarrus had identified infrastructure improvement to Concord Airport, Highway 3 and first responder communications as important to the county, and $2.8 million of funding for Cabarrus County was approved by the House last June.

All spending bills must be reconciled with the Senate before they can be signed into law, and delays in that reconciliation process pushed into 2007. In December, the new congressional leadership decided to strip funding for virtually all specific projects (i.e., earmarks) as part of their effort to finish the appropriations process for the remainder of this fiscal year. The legislation offered in H.J. Res. 20 specifically stripped all previous projects, including these Cabarrus priorities, however, it increased foreign aid funding.

Hayes contacted Concord Mayor Scott Padgett, Kannapolis Mayor Robert Misenheimer, and Sheriff Brad Riley in December expressing his disappointment and frustration with this funding proposal.

“The rationale from the new Appropriations Chairmen, Representative David Obey and Senator Robert Byrd, was that proceeding with the existing process would greatly complicate the fiscal year 2008 appropriations process. I think there are too many important needs that will go unfulfilled to justify abandoning the process now just because it’s going to mean some hard work and late nights next year. … ”

Hayes also complained that the funding bill shortchanged the military at a critical time.

“In addition to cutting critical projects for our communities, this bill shortchanged our military’s construction budget which hinders our efforts to provide the modern training and care our soldiers need,” said Hayes.

Authorized projects contained in the fiscal year 2007 National Defense Authorization Act are eligible for funding in H.J. Res 20, however, there are shortfalls in each account. For example, the Army will receive a military construction appropriation of $2.013 billion to spend on $2.264 billion of authorized projects, or a shortfall of $251 million.