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U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers Serving Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District since 1981, Hal Rogers has been elected to 21 consecutive terms representing the people of southern and eastern Kentucky. On September 2, 2021, he made history as the longest-serving Member of Congress from Kentucky. On March 18, 2022, he became Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives, as the longest-serving Member in the House. His longevity of service is proof that Congressman Rogers focuses on economic development, job creation, fighting illegal drug use, preserving the natural treasures of Appalachia, avidly listening to his constituents, advocating for the interests of the region where he was raised.
Born in rural Kentucky and representing one of the poorest Congressional Districts in the nation, Rogers’ vision for a stronger region spurred some of the greatest success stories in southern and eastern Kentucky. Organizations such as Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, Operation UNITE, Southeast Kentucky Economic Development (SKED), The Center for Rural Development and Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) have brought local communities together by revitalizing the environment, providing hope in the fight against drugs, building small businesses, and creating jobs by increasing tourism in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
Nationally, as Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee from 2011 to 2016, he reduced the size and scope of government by reining in federal spending, conducting rigorous but thoughtful oversight of federal agencies, and restoring fiscal discipline and transparency to our budget process. Rogers led the Congress to reduce discretionary spending by a historic amount, cutting $126 billion in discretionary spending since 2010. During his tenure, Chairman Rogers led the way for regular order, conducting 650 oversight hearings and considering more than 2,000 amendments to appropriations bills on the floor.
With nearly 40 years of experience on the Appropriations Committee, he has served on more than ten different subcommittees, including leadership roles as Chairman or Ranking Member of five. Noteably, Rogers was tapped in 2003 to lead the first Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Through this important role, Rogers fought to ensure our first responders received necessary funds to protect against terrorist threats; demanded tough answers from FEMA in the wake of federal responses to wildfires, hurricanes and flash floods; and insisted on enforcement of our country’s immigration laws and stronger border security.
Whether Rogers is on Capitol Hill ensuring the appropriate use of taxpayer dollars, fighting to secure the homeland, scrutinizing federal government agencies, or home in southern and eastern Kentucky working to make a difference in the lives of the individuals he represents, Rogers remains committed to being a strong voice in Congress for fiscal responsibility, economic development, a strong national defense, and a prosperous future for America.
The House Appropriations Committee is responsible for writing legislation that allocates funding to federal agencies and departments. The Committee has jurisdiction over the 12 annual spending bills and controls one-third of the multi trillion-dollar federal government budget. Because of my reputation for tough oversight and tenacity in holding federal agencies and department heads accountable for excessive spending and growth, I was selected as Chairman of the full House Appropriations Committee at the beginning of the 112th Congress and continued serving through the 114th Congress, from 2011 through 2016.
During my time as Chairman, I focused on reducing the size and scope of the government by reining in federal spending, conducting rigorous but thoughtful oversight of federal agencies, and restoring fiscal discipline and regular order to our budget process. As such, the Appropriations Committee is front and center in restoring austerity and transparency to the discretionary portion of our federal expenditures. Click here to review the Committee’s achievements with Chairman Rogers at the helm.
As the most experienced Republican member of the Appropriations Committee, I currently serve as the Ranking Republican Member on the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, and also a member of the Defense Subcommittee. As I continue this critical work, I will continue my meticulous oversight of federal spending, while also prioritizing programs that provide great benefit to the Fifth District.
Upon graduating from Wayne County High School in 1955, I was forced to leave home in search for work in Cincinnati, Ohio. As I sought to make my way in an unfamiliar city, far away from family and friends, I vowed to someday bring jobs to rural southern and eastern Kentucky, so that future Kentuckians wouldn’t have to leave home in order to make a decent living. During my time in Congress, I have worked to create jobs and boost economic development all over the Fifth District. Through flood control efforts, community development projects, an environmental cleanup campaign, and region-wide tourism initiatives, our area is making progress in attracting businesses and new jobs. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to make this region a better place to live, work and raise a family.
It is impossible to promote economic development, attract new jobs, or create a better standard of living if our people are constantly recovering from the death and destruction of raging flood waters. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have directed more than $779 million dollars to flood projects in the Fifth District. In communities where flood projects have been completed – such as Barbourville, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Middlesboro, Pineville, Salyersville, Whitesburg, and Williamsburg – family homes are now protected, businesses are no longer being destroyed, and the doors of opportunity are swinging open.
In 1986, I worked with regional leaders to create the Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED), a community development organization that works to recruit businesses and create employment opportunities. Since its creation, SKED has successfully assisted more than 150 industries locate or expand their operations in our region. These vital SKED projects employ more than 10,500 workers and have invested an estimated $500 million in our area.
In 1996, we celebrated the opening of The Center for Rural Development, a state-of-the-art facility that serves as an economic development and telecommunications hub for a 42-county region. The Center and its professional staff cultivate and promote the region’s economic, educational, natural, and cultural resources to create better opportunities for the people of southern and eastern Kentucky
It is difficult to attract new businesses and tourists when our roadsides and waterways are littered with trash. In 1997, the late General James Bickford, former Secretary of the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, and I created the Eastern Kentucky PRIDE program, which stands for Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment. PRIDE links citizens with the resources of local, state, and federal agencies to clean up the region’s waterways, end illegal trash dumps, and promote environmental education and awareness.
Recognizing the unique challenges and potential of our region, I launched the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative in 2013. Together with former Governor Steve Beshear, we envisioned an open and annual summit for the region’s leaders, businesses, organizations, and citizens to come together for partnership and innovation. SOAR strives to energize southern and eastern Kentucky organizations and community leaders to think outside the box for an emerging Appalachian economy. With a focus on job creation, regional opportunities, and overall improvement of the quality of life in southern and eastern Kentucky, SOAR serves as a blueprint for a 21st Century Appalachia.
Since 2017, I have also been proud to partner with SKED on its Supplier Education and Economic Development (SEED) initiative, intended to connect southern and eastern Kentucky businesses with major contractors in the defense, automotive, and aerospace industries. Our region has a strong, capable workforce, and offers many manufacturing and machine shops that can provide great value to these industries at competitive price points. This initiative has already benefited our region, and I am confident it will continue to do so moving forward.
Supporting projects that promote economic development, job creation and cleaning up our communities has always been a priority of mine throughout my years in Congress. I will continue to support policies at the federal level and projects at the local level which will ensure the long-term viability of the southern and eastern Kentucky we all know and love.
Providing students with access to quality educational opportunities is essential to improving the quality of life in southern and eastern Kentucky. In today’s modern world, we must ensure students not only have the fundamental building blocks of an education – such as reading, writing, and arithmetic – but also have the technological skills to compete for jobs in the future. Over the years, I have worked hard to provide better educational opportunities for our youth. Below are some organizations that strive to meet that goal.
The Center for Rural Development in Somerset is home to a host of programs and organizations that seek to foster educational opportunities for youth and adults throughout the region. The Rogers Scholars Program, which launched in 1998, provides enhanced educational opportunities for students throughout the Fifth Congressional District. The program offers an intensive week-long summer session for rising high school juniors that emphasizes development of technological skills and fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, leadership skills, and commitment to rural Kentucky. Similarly, the Rogers Explorers program focuses on math and science skills for rising ninth graders. Each of these programs opens doors to learning for our region’s youth, promotes higher education achievement, and gives students a great summer experience they will keep with them for their entire lives.
Through the Eastern Kentucky PRIDE program, students are helping clean up our region’s land and waterways and are also learning to take care of the environment. Schools, teachers, and students in southern and eastern Kentucky are partnering with PRIDE to measure water quality at lakes, rivers, and streams near their schools and in their communities. They are also participating in service projects and unique environmental classroom activities.
To break the devastating cycle of drug abuse that afflicts many of our young people, Operation UNITE is working with students and schools on education and mentoring programs. UNITE funds substance abuse counselors who provide intervention services for students in schools throughout our region who may be struggling with substance abuse. UNITE has also partnered with the Future Fisherman Foundation and the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources to offer the Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs program, which promotes angling abilities, positive life skills, aquatic education and stewardship. UK basketball star Jeff Sheppard also collaborates with UNITE’s Shoot Hoops Not Drugs program, which shows youth there are healthy alternatives to drug abuse.
In today’s economy, higher education is often a necessary component to being competitive and successful. Throughout southern and eastern Kentucky, several colleges and universities have developed outstanding regional and national reputations, and are opening the doors of the world to students of all ages in Appalachia. From Morehead State University’s space science students putting satellites into orbit, to the University of Pikeville’s osteopathic doctors, southern and eastern Kentuckians are receiving quality education for jobs that are in demand. Furthermore, Alice Lloyd College, University of the Cumberlands, Union College, and the twenty Kentucky Community and Technical College System campuses in the Fifth District are churning out educated workers, eager and ready for today’s marketplace. I am proud of everyone in our region who has taken advantage of the many educational opportunities available in our backyard.
In 2019, I helped launch the University Center of Southern Kentucky (UCSK), a “multi-versity” that provides several pathways and delivery methods for students to earn a four-year degree from partnering Kentucky universities while being able to remain on the campus of Somerset Community College (SCC). After completing a two-year degree at SCC, students can choose from the partnering universities to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree at the Somerset campus. Students also have full access to student support services at the partnering university. This “multi-versity” allows students to choose the best degree for their career path without leaving southern Kentucky, opening doors of opportunity for education here at home and ending the out-migration of our best and brightest students.
Energy costs represent a significant portion of every household budget. I have therefore long supported an “all of the above,” market-based approach to energy policy to ensure electricity costs remain as low as possible for hard-working families and seniors.
Achieving energy independence will require increasing the supply of domestic energy resources as well as investing in technologies that provide sustainable sources of affordable energy. Fortunately, southern and eastern Kentucky boasts plentiful reserves of one of the most affordable energy resources in the world - coal. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Kentucky’s estimated recoverable coal reserves are the fifth largest in the nation. I have always supported the safe and responsible mining and use of coal, as Kentucky currently serves as the fifth-largest producer of this cheap and reliable resource. Today, Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District is home to roughly 2,000 coal miners. Additionally, the Commonwealth receives 73% of its electricity from coal and, as a result, has some of the lowest electric rates in the nation.
Although coal mining is cleaner and safer than ever before in history, this industry unfortunately came under direct attack during eight years of the Obama Administration. The regulatory assaults of the former President’s unelected bureaucrats have threatened this vital economic engine while simultaneously increasing electricity and gas prices. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) became the poster child for widespread regulatory overreach and, as a result, put mining, manufacturing, and farming families out of work at a time when some Kentucky counties have 12% unemployment. Unquestionably, the downturn in the coal industry has been devastating for families in our region – and it has placed the energy security of our entire country at risk. Government rules on everything from boilers to farm dust to light bulbs only exacerbate the challenges experienced by businesses and consumers.
For these reasons, I am proud to be a strong voice in Congress in opposition to anti-coal policies and job-killing regulations. Most notably, the work of the House Appropriations Committee where I served as Chairman from 2011 - 2016, sent a strong message that “legislation by regulation” faces bi-partisan opposition. For example, in the six years that I was chairman, our committee worked to scale back the Obama Administration’s regulatory overreach by reducing EPA funding by $2.2 billion, or 21%, and reducing EPA staff to its lowest levels since 1989. We prevented the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA from changing the definition of “fill material,” which would harm many U.S. industries. We strengthened technological innovation by investing in energy research, including significant investments in clean coal technology.
In addition, following President Trump’s election in 2016, we in the Congress worked together with his Administration to reverse the harmful actions of the Obama Administration, including the withdrawal or delay of over 1,500 rules that had yet to be finalized, ending the ban on drilling in the Arctic, and the suspension of the Obama Administration’s overreaching Clean Water Rule. Additionally, the Trump Administration eliminated 22 Obama-era regulations for every new one created—a strong step in the right direction. Especially with President Biden’s election in 2020, I will continue to fight alongside Kentucky coal miners, farmers, and manufacturers for their jobs and livelihoods, and for our nation’s energy security. It is a fight we cannot afford to lose.
Our region of southern and eastern Kentucky is blessed with a unique landscape abounding in scenic beauty, valuable natural resources, and recreational opportunities amongst some of the world’s oldest mountains. I have long believed our nation and governing laws can carefully balance the protection of our natural resources with vibrant economic development and prosperity.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked to ensure the natural environment of our region is preserved by supporting legislation that protects our National Parks, federal lands and designated wildlife habitat. The pristine forests and natural beauty of our region are blessings for which we all have the responsibility to act as stewards, ensuring their preservation for future generations. With this in mind, I have worked hard to make our rivers and hillsides cleaner with programs such as the Eastern Kentucky PRIDE program. PRIDE is a massive federal, state and local joint effort that, to date, has:
- Rid our region of over 2,885 illegal trash dumps,
- Removed nearly 190,000 tons of trash from roadsides, forests, and waterways,
- Reduced straight pipe discharge by installing 7,389 septic systems, and
- Provided over 33,000 homes with access to sanitary wastewater treatment.
PRIDE has also established a PRIDE Community Grant Program to provide funds for environmental improvement projects, with over 1,652 approved so far. In addition, PRIDE is an important community outreach program, increasing public awareness of the need for responsible environmental stewardship and providing valuable volunteer opportunities to our region’s youths. So far, over 925,000 students at all age levels have gotten involved, and over 445,000 volunteers have selflessly combined for over 1.4 million man-hours to improve their communities and restore the natural habitats surrounding them.
I am also proud to help protect the National Parks in our region. Not only are they beautiful national treasures our residents can enjoy, but, statewide, our parks enjoy roughly 1.7 million visitors annually. This clearly helps drive economic growth in our region. The year 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, I supported a number of grants to support specific projects and programs at national parks, including school outreach programs, trail improvements and new educational exhibits.
I also spearheaded legislative efforts to add the Mill Springs Battlefield, located in southwestern Pulaski County, to the national park system. In 1862, Mill Springs was the site of a critically important battle and the first major Union victory of the Civil War. After years of work preserving this site, the Mill Springs Battlefield Association expressed its desire to turn the site over to the National Park Service. To make this a reality, I introduced legislation that would do exactly this. This legislation passed in Congress in early 2019, and was signed into law by President Trump on March 12, 2019. I proudly participated in the opening ceremony for the Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in October of 2020, and am honored to welcome all to come experience the rich history available at the Mill Springs Battlefield.
In 2016, through my role as House Appropriations Committee Chairman, I also established a pilot program for a new approach to abandoned mine land (AML) cleanup. Since 2016, this program has made $655 million available for reclamation and economic development projects on unreclaimed or previously reclaimed abandoned mine land, with $155 million specifically for Kentucky. Funds received under the pilot program can be used for reclamation work and construction related to the economic development aspect of an approved project, such as erecting a building or laying a water line. In order to take advantage of this funding, municipal entities should work with local partners to develop a project proposal intended to create jobs by utilizing AML land. More information can be found here.
By working together through efforts like these, we can ensure the protection of our region’s rich natural resources while growing businesses, expanding communities, and creating jobs and opportunities for our children.
Promoting our national defense and ensuring our homeland security are two of the most important functions of our federal government. The global security environment continues to grow increasingly complex and unpredictable, and I remain committed to providing our military, intelligence, and homeland security personnel with the support they need to do their difficult jobs.
While I served as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 2011-2016, our committee prioritized funding for essential readiness programs to ensure our nation is always prepared for any threats. As we fight to promote our interests across the globe, we must also remain ever vigilant in guarding against both foreign and domestic threats to our homeland. When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was first created in 2003, I was proud to serve as the first Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security – and these issues have remained very important to me since that time.
I have always worked hard to give DHS what it needs to accomplish its mission of protecting our nation, while also pushing for necessary changes to adapt to the security issues we face both now and in the future. I have worked to replace the U.S. Coast Guard’s aging ships and aircraft, while also beefing up security at our airports by adding more efficient and accurate screening equipment, increasing scanning of cargo containers at our ports, prioritizing funding for improved cybersecurity, and supporting programs to halt the flow of illegal immigrants and drug-traffickers across our borders.
Border security remains one of the most challenging national security issues for our country. Drug-related violence at our southwest border has been steadily increasing, and our border remains vulnerable to terrorists crossing with nefarious purposes. This necessitates an even greater sustained and comprehensive federal response.
In particular, we need to stop the flow of illegal immigration. Experts believe that nearly 12 million illegal immigrants are currently residing in the United States. I have long believed that respect for our immigration laws is critical to maintaining our economic and domestic security. Further, illegal immigration undermines the rule of law, depresses wages and opportunities for our working families, and is linked to crime and drug trafficking. For those reasons, I have consistently opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants and, instead, supported legislation that seeks to end the practice by establishing physical barriers, incorporating state-of the art surveillance technology, expanding our border patrol efforts, and increasing penalties for alien smuggling.
While I was Appropriations Committee Chairman, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) received a record amount of funding which has allowed for the highest operational force in the agency’s history. We also increased coverage of fencing and barriers along the border to over 650 miles and funded critical surveillance assets along the southern border. The combination of these accomplishments means there are more boots on the ground and more tools at our disposal to keep our borders protected and our country safe.
I am extremely proud of the work that has been done to promote our national defense and homeland security – but more dedicated work remains. Failure here is not an option.
The National Institute for Hometown Security (NIHS) is a private, non-profit 501(c)3 corporation which was organized in 2004. The NIHS was developed with the specific mission to discover, develop and deploy solutions that protect and preserve the critical infrastructure of the nation’s communities. The organization pursues infrastructure protection research projects that are aligned with the needs and requirements of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
I wanted to organize the higher education institutions of Kentucky to more effectively compete for research funds and projects aimed at improving homeland security. As a result, the Kentucky Homeland Security University Consortium was formed. The member institutions collaborate on research and development projects, share scholarly resources, and cooperatively pursue solutions to specific homeland security challenges. The NIHS is the administrative manager for the Consortium and manages contracts for research projects which are awarded to Consortium members.
Historically, many areas of Kentucky’s Fifth District have been underserved when it comes to medical and dental care. Throughout my career, I have worked to increase access to health care services, reduce the number of uninsured individuals and families, and improve the overall health of people in southern and eastern Kentucky.
Tragically, Kentuckians disproportionately suffer from some of America’s most common health disparities. Kentucky has one of the highest incidence rates of cancer in the nation, with the largest percentage of those deaths occurring in the Fifth Congressional District. Our region also has some of the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and obesity in the country. I believe we can tackle these problems, and I have consistently supported programs specifically tailored to serve rural regions like ours.
For example, I have long supported federal resources for Community Health Centers, and I helped secure the initial funding to establish the Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard. Operated by the University of Kentucky, the Center provides academic and residency programs for students from Appalachia, while also providing an array of health services for area residents. I am also proud to have helped fund healthcare teaching facilities at Morehead State University and Union College. Along with the growth of the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine at the University of Pikeville, we are creating a vibrant health network in our region that focuses on high quality care, wellness and prevention.
One of my proudest achievements is the establishment of the Marty Driesler Lethal Cancers Project at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center. Named in honor of my former Chief of Staff, who died in 2004 after a three-year battle with lung cancer, this first-of-its-kind healthcare initiative increased the early detection of cancer and improved survival rates for people with deadly cancers. Since 2001, I have secured tens of millions for equipment, construction, and other improvements for hospitals, healthcare facilities and wellness programs throughout southern and eastern Kentucky.
Today, one of the greatest challenges we face in healthcare policy remains the disastrous Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This law was passed in 2010 under the guise of lowering healthcare costs, but has only created more regulations, taxes, and fees, driving up premiums and deductibles. In fact, the average Kentuckian saw premiums increased by as much as 25% in 2017 and 19% in 2018. This has placed a terrible strain on working families seeking care, on doctors treating patients, and on states which are forced to foot the bill for much of the cost. Healthcare costs have risen much faster than expected in recent years and this has made it harder for people, especially in southern and eastern Kentucky, to access and pay for quality care.
I remain committed to commonsense, patient-focused reforms that address the high costs of care, including tort reform and greater competition in the insurance marketplace. I support healthcare reform that will provide patients with more choice and lower costs so you never have to worry about being turned away by your doctor or having your insurance coverage taken away. I also want to protect the more than 50 million seniors and individuals with disabilities who rely on Medicare, and ensure the United States continues to lead the world in cures, drug research, and treatment of disease.
As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, I will do everything I can to ensure people in our region have access to quality affordable healthcare. Much work remains to achieve this goal, but I am optimistic we can clear these hurdles.
Despite its natural beauty and scenic wonders, southern and eastern Kentucky is home to some of the highest rates of drug abuse and overdose deaths in the nation. The epidemic of illegal drugs and misused prescription drugs is by far the most devastating issue I have confronted in my years of public service. It has spread like wildfire, tearing apart families, ruining lives, and stretching the resources of our law enforcement and social service agencies to the absolute limit. While our region was certainly ground zero of the opioid crisis, it has tragically spread across the nation – taking 128 American lives every day according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We must work together to bring an end to this scourge.
This has been a priority for me for nearly two decades. One critical tool for which I have long advocated for are Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). PDMPs allow pharmacists, physicians, law enforcement and other authorized users to track a patient’s prescription drug history – simultaneously promoting good medical practice and rooting out bad actors. Thankfully Kentucky has been a leader in this area: the Commonwealth was the first state in the nation to provide a self-service, Internet-based system for tracking all schedule II-V prescription drugs. The Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) System provides information to assist practitioners and pharmacists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I was proud to help establish a national grant program that helps states like Kentucky track and combat prescription drug abuse in 2001. To date, Congress has appropriated over $142 million for the Harold Rogers PDMP at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Not only has Kentucky received several substantial grants from the program to enhance and expand its KASPER system, but nearly every state in the nation now has a functional PDMP. Next, we must work to ensure every state is connected and able to share data and that PDMP data is seamlessly integrated into a doctor’s workflow.
While we have worked hard to tackle this problem at the national level, the truth is combatting drug abuse must be a local priority, incorporating a holistic strategy. That is why I launched Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education), a regional anti-drug initiative that empowers citizens groups and community leaders in 32 counties, most of which are within the Fifth Congressional District. Since UNITE’s founding in 2003, I have secured billions of dollars to combat drug trafficking nationally and take our Kentucky communities back. These dollars are making a difference back home - nearly 4,500 drug dealers have been put in jail, more than $12.6 million worth of illegal drugs have been taken off our streets, over $18 million has been provided in vouchers to enable 4,700 individuals to enter treatment programs, 30 drug courts in 24 counties are helping those struggling with addiction get their lives back on track, and UNITE clubs and youth programs are partnering with our schools to protect and educate our children. UNITE also founded the annual National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, the largest gathering in the U.S. dedicated to prescription drug abuse and heroin use.
UNITE’s regional efforts have become a national model for holistic, community-based anti-drug programming and I have pushed hard for additional federal resources to combat this epidemic. When I chaired the House Appropriations Committee, I authored the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which provided $8.1 billion for addiction treatment, prevention, enforcement, and research programs across many government agencies.
Furthermore, I proudly supported the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) when it passed in Congress, and it was signed into law on July 22, 2016. This landmark legislation authorized $181 million in new annual funding for broad state grants to address opioid addiction and abuse, including treatment and recovery opportunities for pregnant and postpartum women and their children. I also supported the 21st Century Cures Act, which provided $1 billion to further supplement states’ opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities, such as improving PDMPs and implementing prevention measures. Finally, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, signed into law in 2018, authorized a record $6.7 billion for substance use disorder treatment and prevention measures. In particular, this bill included a provision I authored to create a federal student loan repayment program for addiction treatment professionals working in areas most in need of their services. It also included another provision I championed expanding the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) efforts to combat the epidemic in our region.
We have taken great strides to stem the opioid crisis and provide access to treatment for those who need it, but much work remains to be done. I will remain vigilant in Washington to maintain federal support for these programs, and with your continued help, I am hopeful we will succeed in our battle against drug abuse.
I support efforts to reform our tax code in order to make it easier for every American to understand and comply with the law, and that means we need to focus on three key principles as we work to reform the tax code:
The tax code needs to be simpler, fairer, and flatter. It should not be difficult to complete your tax returns and we should not punish success achieved through hard work and innovation.
The tax code should support our national economy, helping to create jobs and growth while expanding opportunity for all Americans. Our goal is to make the United States the best place in the world to hire and invest.
The IRS needs to put taxpayers first with quality customer service and modern information systems.
I was proud to join with my colleagues in the 115th Congress to achieve these goals and make sweeping tax reform a reality. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law in December 2017, marked the first tax code overhaul in more than 30 years. It reduced tax rates for individuals and businesses alike, allowing the average American to keep more of their hard-earned money and companies to hire more workers. This pro-growth tax plan will lead to higher wages, more jobs, and an increase of our nation’s gross domestic product. The success of this overhaul is already showing across both the country and Commonwealth.
While I served as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 2011 to 2016, our committee worked hard to restore accountability at the IRS. We streamlined its operations, encouraged the agency to do more with less, and protected taxpayers from wasteful or inappropriate behavior. All the while, we increased funding in certain areas to improve customer service, resulting in faster response time, better fraud detection, and stronger cybersecurity.
In addition to my work on the Appropriations Committee, I have strongly supported legislative efforts to reduce the tax burden on hardworking men and women. In my time in Congress, I have been proud to support legislation that provides much-needed tax relief to small business and working families, increases in the child tax credit, and reduces the marriage penalty and tax rates on dividends and capital gains. I have also backed legislation to expand small business expensing and depreciation rules and will continue to work to maintain these important measures.
I am a long-time proponent of legislation that seeks to permanently end the “estate tax,” also commonly known as the death tax. The loss of a loved one is hard enough to face without the threat of the federal government claiming much of what a parent or spouse spent a lifetime building – whether that is a family home, savings account, farm, or small business. I was pleased the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubled the death tax exemption to provide relief to grieving families. This will continue to be a priority as Congress considers legislation related to tax reform.
In conjunction with lowering the tax burden on American families and businesses, I have also worked to ensure the federal government lives within its means by reining in out-of-control government spending. Families have learned to spend less, be responsible and live within their budgets – and now it’s time for the federal government to do the same. During my tenure as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Congress worked to cut over $126 billion from the federal budget because Kentuckians deserve the decency of accountability and oversight when their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent.
Tourism is big business in Kentucky and is another critical component of our region’s economic development strategy. Each year, millions of people visit the Commonwealth, pumping billions of dollars into our economy. The money that flows into restaurants, hotels, craft shops, and local tourist attractions, ultimately flows back into our communities. I have always worked to promote, expand, develop, and market the tourism industry throughout the region and will continue to do so for the mutual enjoyment of our residents and visitors.
In eastern Kentucky, our state’s famed bluegrass gently shifts into the scenic hills of the Appalachian Mountains. The region is home to some of our country’s most beautiful natural wonders, and I encourage everyone to come visit and see the beauty for themselves. From hiking our canyons and cliffs and the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, to enjoying the water on many of our manmade and natural lakes, to cruising the Country Music Highway, or taking in American history at Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument or similar sites, there is something for everyone in southern and eastern Kentucky.
Improving our transportation network is one of the most effective ways to promote economic growth and prosperity.
Southern and eastern Kentucky have a critical need for new roads and improved access. By working together with local, state, and federal officials, we have made numerous improvements to our transportation network, and I will continue to work with these parties to advocate for future projects that will benefit those in our region.
For nearly two decades, I have been a strong advocate of Interstate 66, which provides Kentuckians with a crucial east-west highway connecting eastern and western Kentucky. Studies have shown that interstate routes pay huge economic dividends for the communities and regions they connect. I-66 provides our citizens with better access to health care, opens our communities to tourism, and provides additional supply lines for the new businesses we work to attract. Increasing access to highways in Appalachia can reduce travel time and costs for businesses, and is estimated to produce over 80,000 jobs and billions in economic impact added to the economy each year. Interstates like I-66 also improve safety for people traveling in and around the area, by providing a wide, well-maintained thoroughfare.
During my time in Congress, I have helped direct more than $100 million in funding for Kentucky’s Appalachian Highways. These dollars have helped transform several roads in our region, including a section of U.S. 119 over Pine Mountain in Letcher County, which was once considered one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the Commonwealth. I was also proud to secure funding for the Cumberland Gap Tunnels. After more than two decades of work, the $280 million Cumberland Gap Tunnels opened to a great celebration. The twin tunnels now safely carry thousands of cars along U.S. 25E between Kentucky and Tennessee each day, and have opened the region to tourists and new businesses.
For the first time in a more than a decade, the 114th Congress was able to pass a long-term transportation bill that reauthorizes critical programs that allow states like Kentucky to continue to improve and build roadways, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure projects. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act provided long-term certainty and delivers significant flexibility to state and local governments. The comprehensive piece of legislation addressed roads, bridges, and railroads which are all in desperate need of updating. The legislation also made key reforms to these programs in order to make sure your hard-earned tax dollars are spent more wisely. This legislation presented a great opportunity to increase safety and mobility, promote economic development and create jobs across our region.
Additionally, during the 115th Congress, we successfully passed a new authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration. This legislation included a five-year reauthorization and provided the longest period of stability to our national aviation programs since 1982. The United States has the most complex, largest and most heavily traveled aviation system in the world, and this legislation improves aviation safety for over 900 million passengers who fly in the United States each year.
I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in Congress - on a bipartisan basis - to pass bills like these that provide robust investment in infrastructure and provide long-term stability for our nation’s, and our region’s, transportation infrastructure. I will continue to advocate for efforts like these, including those that benefit southern and eastern Kentucky, in the future.
Our nation is a safer place because of the sacrifices made by our brave men and women in uniform. As a former National Guardsman, I highly respect the devotion our veterans have for this great country and will always strongly support programs that serve their best interests. The well-being of our nation’s veterans is a top priority and there is unquestionably much more work to be done.
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Throughout my career in Congress, I have consistently voted to increase funding for vital programs and have fought to expand and improve benefits for veterans. During my tenure as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 2011 to 2016, Congress provided the then-highest level of discretionary funding ever for the Department of Veterans Affairs – an increase of $21.3 billion or 40%. In an effort to address some of the most pervasive problems facing our veterans today, the Committee has also prioritized the funding of mental health, suicide prevention, traumatic brain injury, homelessness, and PTSD care services.
Notably, Congress has also made significant progress in reducing the disability claims processing backlog, ensuring veterans’ claims are processed in a timely and efficient manner. We have also worked hard to ensure our veterans have seamless medical care as they transfer out of active duty by pressing the Department of Defense and the VA to develop high-quality, interoperable electronic health records. In the 115th Congress, I was proud to support the passage of the VA MISSION Act, legislation that will fundamentally transform several elements of the VA healthcare system. Instead of the VA relying on numerous programs to ensure veterans are able to access timely healthcare, the VA MISSION Act consolidates VA’s community care programs into a new Veterans Community Care Program. This new program would strengthen the VA by merging the Department’s tangled web of competing and confusing community care programs, including the Choice Program, into one system that is easier to navigate for veterans, VA employees, and community partners. It will help to ensure veterans choose the VA by getting them the right care at the right time with the right provider.
I have also been a strong supporter of legislation that improves veterans’ health care, including programs to assist disabled veterans and their caregivers. I firmly believe our veterans deserve the very best health care available and that is why I have fought to recruit and train more qualified medical professionals at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical facilities.
Rest assured, I will continue to be a voice for veterans and work hard to always honor their sacrifice and ensure they receive the benefits they deserve. America is the greatest nation on earth because these courageous men and women served and defended our precious freedoms. I am truly grateful for the millions of veterans that have put their country first and stood up for the values that our nation represents.