U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today issued the following statement after the Senate passed numerous Thune-led proposals that will have a direct and positive effect on South Dakota. Among Thune’s proposals that were included in the bipartisan budget agreement that passed Congress and now heads to the president for his signature are his MOBILE NOW Act, which passed the Senate in August 2017, and funding for his Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, which became law in April 2017.
Several Thune-supported proposals were also included in the agreement, including the largest increase in defense spending in 15 years, the largest military pay increase in nearly a decade, billions of dollars in infrastructure investments, and additional resources that will help local communities keep their schools and students safe.
“The congressional budget process is broken, there’s no doubt about it,” said Thune. “I’ve said for years that we need to reform it so it delivers a more effective and efficient product to American taxpayers. The bill we passed today is not perfect. Far from it, in fact. That said, it’s the result of a bipartisan, good-faith effort in Congress, contains multiple wins for South Dakota, and President Trump strongly supports it and will sign it into law. When he does, we’ll be able to deliver much-needed resources to our men and women in uniform, including a significant pay raise, lay important groundwork for infrastructure projects in South Dakota, and provide additional support to state and local governments so they can meet their community’s unique needs to keep schools safe.”
Highlights of the bipartisan budget agreement:
Supports the Troops:
- Historic Defense Funding: Largest year-to-year increase in defense spending in 15 years. After years of underfunding, this bill will help rebuild our military to meet current and future threats.
- Troop Pay Increase: Includes a 2.4 percent pay raise for the troops – the largest troop pay increase in eight years.
- Military Modernization and Next Generation Bomber Funding: Contains $89.2 billion for research, development, testing, and evaluation of new defense technologies, including nearly $2 billion for the next-generation B-21 bomber that will replace the B-1B at bases like Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Invests in South Dakota’s Infrastructure:
- Rural Broadband and Infrastructure: Includes billions of dollars in new funding for highways, waterways, airways, and railroads across the country, including $600 million for rural distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.
- Railroad and Freight Investments: Includes nearly $600 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements, of which South Dakota will receive approximately double the percentage in funding that it usually receives under transportation programs, amounting to approximately $8 million for railroad investments in South Dakota. South Dakota will also receive at least $8.59 million in fiscal year 2018 under the National Highway Freight Formula program. As chairman of the Commerce Committee, Thune was instrumental in authorizing both programs in the FAST Act, the most recent highway bill.
- Highway Funding: The additional infrastructure funding will boost South Dakota’s federal highway funding by at least $14 million in 2018. Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant funding is tripled to $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2018. Recently, South Dakota received funding for a $21 million project from fiscal year 2017 funds, and additional South Dakota TIGER announcements are possible in the near future. The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America Grants program, which Thune was also instrumental in authorizing, received $900 million in the legislation.
Protects School Children and Communities from Dangerous Individuals:
- Fix NICS Act: Includes the Fix NICS Act, which strengthens the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System so dangerous people aren’t able to acquire weapons and cause harm.
- STOP School Violence Act: Includes the STOP School Violence Act, which is supported by families affected by the Parkland shooting, and funding for mental health, training, and school safety resources, all of which will help local communities protect students and residents.
Enacts and Funds Several of Thune’s Commerce Committee Priorities:
- Thune’s MOBILE NOW Act: Includes the MOBILE NOW Act, which will boost the development of next-generation gigabit wireless broadband services, including 5G, by ensuring more spectrum is made available for commercial use and by reducing the red tape associated with building broadband networks.
- Funding for Thune’s Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act: Contains funding for Thune’s weather forecasting legislation. This investment will help improve weather data, modeling, computing, forecast infrastructure, and warnings to allow the agency to develop more accurate, timely, and effective warnings and forecasts of weather events that endanger life and property.