For immediate release:
Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Montana Scores Big in VA/HUD
$21.5 Million Earmarked for Montana; Burns Demands More for Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Montana Senator Conrad Burns today announced that the VA/HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill includes $21.5 million in funding for Montana projects in fiscal year 2000, which begins Oct. 1 of this year. Burns supported a measure that increased veterans' health care funding by $1.1 billion.

The bill was approved today by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies, of which Burns is a member.

During the subcommittee meeting, Burns said that the bill has good provisions for Montana, but it sorely underestimates the funding necessary for a strong veterans' health care program. Noting that consistent cutbacks in service for Montana veterans have led to long trips to the doctor and waiting periods, Burns said that the Veterans Administration (VA) needed to put more of a priority on caring for veterans' health care needs.

"We have veterans waiting four days and driving hundreds of miles for simple check-ups," Burns said. "That is ridiculous, and I don't understand why the president insists on offering up budgets that skimp on our veterans. We have made an effort to improve care by adding $1.1 billion to the budget, but we need the administration on our side if we're going to see long-term improvement."

Burns also expressed disappointment with reduced funding levels for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, which uses public funds to leverage millions of private dollars to build affordable housing. The bill includes $60 million for the program, although it received $90 million last year. Burns is working to increase the funding level before the bill is finalized.

Burns also said the bill included funding for economic development and research programs located in Montana. Despite tighter budget constraints, Burns pointed out that the VA/HUD spending bill included $1 million more in funding for Montana than the same bill did at this stage last year. The bill includes funding for the following Montana projects requested by Burns:

Montana will also be eligible for funds from the following national grant programs:
  "Montana's universities and high-tech companies do great work on a national level," Burns said. "The dollars spent on research in Montana not only benefit the nation, but local economies as well. You can bet that I will continue to push for this funding as it moves through the process."

The full Senate will take up consideration of the VA/HUD spending bill later this month.

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