Bennet, Udall Support Budget Bill to Keep Government Open, Vow to Continue Push for PILT, EWP

Bill Includes Increased Funding for Wildfire Mitigation 

Heads to President’s Desk to be Signed into Law

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today supported the Senate’s passage of an appropriations bill that funds the government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014. The 72-26 vote sends the bill, which includes a modest increase in resources to help prevent and suppress wildfires, to the president’s desk to be signed into law and avoids another government shutdown.

“Coloradans expect and deserve a whole lot more of their representatives in Washington than just keeping the government open,” Bennet said. “We were able to secure crucial wildfire mitigation funding that can help us reduce the risk of the catastrophic fires we’ve become all too accustomed to. At the same time, the bill completely omits resources for the PILT program that our communities rely on to provide basic services, as well as the Emergency Watershed Protection funding for wildfire and flood recovery efforts. We will continue to fight for these programs to ensure Coloradans have the resources they need.”

“This bipartisan budget legislation averts another government shutdown, takes a more common-sense approach to reduce federal spending and makes important investments in wildfire prevention and firefighting," Udall said. “This bill, however, falls short of meeting all of Colorado’s needs. It short-changes the Emergency Watershed Protection Program and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which are essential to improving our water resources and strengthening the hand of local governments. These are bipartisan programs that our rural communities count on, and I will keep leading the fight to make sure they are fully funded. I stand ready to ensure we do not leave these issues unresolved.”

The bill includes over $450 million for hazardous fuels reduction to mitigate wildfires, a provision that Bennet and Udall fought to include in the bill and a significant increase over the funding levels the President requested in his budget for the coming year. Boosting wildfire mitigation funding helps save future costs of fire suppression and recovery efforts. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that every $1 in wildfire mitigation funding saves $5 in future disaster losses.

Despite funds being left out of the bill for PILT and EWP, the senators continue to push for these crucial resources. Yesterday, Bennet and Udall led a bipartisan coalition of senators urging the leadership of the Farm Bill conference committee to include funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program in the final Farm Bill conference report. In December, the senators requested that three key Senate committees prioritize resources for PILT.