Proposed budget increases Washington military construction spending

WASHINGTON — Funding for military construction at Joint Base Lewis McChord would increase by nearly $20 million in the next fiscal year under a mostly status quo budget proposal submitted Monday to Congress by the White House.

The $3.8 trillion budget proposal cuts funding for Puget Sound cleanup by $30 million over current levels, trims a popular program for farmers to promote U.S. agriculture products overseas, slightly increases the budget to clean up the Hanford nuclear reservation and provides a 1.4 percent pay increase for military personnel.

Federal funding for the state's social safety net would remain pretty much intact.

The budget also includes $864 million for further research and development of a new Air Force refueling tanker. A $35 billion contract for 179 new tankers is expected to be awarded later this year. Boeing is competing for the contract.

Congressional offices spent Monday trying to sort out the winners and losers in President Barack Obama's massive budget blueprint, though Congress makes the final decisions on federal spending.

"Overall we are in pretty good shape," said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and chairman of its interior appropriations subcommittee. "I think we need to constrain spending. I agree with the president on that."

Overall, Joint Base Lewis McChord would receive $171 million in military construction funding mostly for work associated with three Army Stryker brigades. That's about $20 million more than the current year.

Funding would pay for work on a barracks and barracks complex, a rappelling training area and a new logistical support facility to provide maintenance not just for the Lewis McChord Strykers, but Stryker brigades based in Alaska and Hawaii.

Dicks said the facility would be doing maintenance for five of the nation's seven Stryker brigades, servicing the vehicles when they return from deployment.

Total military construction spending at the state's Army, Navy and Air Force bases would be roughly the same as last year at just over $400 million.

"This is a tight budget and we still come through with a pot of money," Dicks said.

The White House proposed $20 million in federal funding for Puget Sound cleanup, compared with the $50 million in the current fiscal year.

"I'm disappointed, but we will remedy that," Dicks said.

Federal funding for the Great Lakes cleanup would drop by $175 million in the president's budget proposal, from $475 million to $300 million, while money for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup would increase about $13 million to $63 million.

The administration wants to cut the Agriculture Department's Market Access Program from $200 million to $192 million in the next fiscal year and then to $162 million in future years. The program helps promote such agricultural products as apples, hops, pears, wine, lentils and dry beans and peas.

In announcing last week nearly $20 million to help Washington state's farmers market their products overseas, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the program "more important than ever."

Vilsack said Tuesday that it was time to "put our fiscal house in order." Congress has rejected previous cuts in the program.

At Hanford, the administration proposed increasing the current $2.1 billion cleanup budget by $39 million. Most of the money would be spent on dealing with the most highly radioactive waste at the central Washington nuclear reservation.

The White House budget office had earlier considered cutting the environmental cleanup budget at Hanford and other Energy Department nuclear sites by $1 billion. Lawmakers, led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., argued that would be a mistake.

When it comes to federal grants in fiscal 2011, which starts Oct. 1, Washington state's share will be down about $500 million, from $8.7 billion in the current fiscal year to $8.2 billion in the next. But most of that reduction is a result of the phase-out of federal stimulus money.

Even so, federal funding for school lunch programs in Washington state will be up almost $8 million to $173 million; Head Start funding will increase almost $15 million to $121 million; and funding for so-called Section 8 housing vouchers will increase almost $21 million.