Column: Committed to state’s priorities
This summer I have been working hard to make sure Michigan’s priorities move forward in Congress. This includes protecting the Great Lakes, improving our infrastructure, strengthening our national security and helping our veterans. As the only Michigan member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have oversight of federal departments and agencies. Here is an update on some issues of concern to all Michigan residents.
For the Great Lakes, I have fought to ensure that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is fully funded for next year. The Appropriations Committee agreed and next year the GLRI will be funded at $300 million. The GLRI protects not only the Great Lakes, but also the lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands that flow into them.
Of course, the threat of Asian carp must also be stopped, to protect the ecosystem and the thousands of Michigan jobs that depend on tourism, fishing and boating. That is why the committee passed legislation calling for the Army Corps of Engineers to release the Brandon Road Lock report about stopping Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. This report is already complete and it has been paid for by the taxpayers. It should be released promptly.
My work on the Appropriations Committee also included fighting for improvements to our country’s infrastructure. The Soo Locks are vital to our country, and they are due for an upgrade. Unfortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers, which runs the Locks, uses an obsolete formula to study their significance and determine if they should receive funding. I fought to change this and successfully directed the Corps to use a new formula that includes the real, true value of the goods that pass through the Locks.
Michigan’s rural communities also have infrastructure concerns and I voted for legislation that will make loans and grants available for rural water infrastructure. The legislation also helps these communities with similar funding so they can connect to broadband Internet.
I also voted on the committee for legislation that increases defense spending and includes a well-deserved pay raise for our troops. This bill addresses the vital needs of our military men and women around the world as they work to keep our country safe. It funds the equipment and resources they need to defeat our enemies and keeps us ahead of terrorist groups and rogue countries like Iran and North Korea.
Finally, in a time when it seems our politics are so bitterly divided, there was strong bipartisan support for critical reforms at the Veterans Administration. The legislation I voted for will help Michigan’s more than 600,000 veterans with greater accountability and an increase in funding to quickly process disability claims that are stuck in an unacceptable national backlog.
All of this legislation advances important priorities for Michigan residents: beautiful Great Lakes, modern infrastructure, strong national security and accountability for those who take care of the men and women who served in defense of our country. I will continue to fight for these solutions in the weeks and months ahead.
Rep. John Moolenaar represents Michigan’s 4th Congressional district.