Cantwell Statement on Government Spending Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After the Senate voted today to approve the government spending bill, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement:

“This bill represents the bipartisan action the American people want from their elected officials. While the bill isn’t perfect and there is still work to do on key priorities, we were able to achieve several substantive victories for Washington state from the required labeling of genetically engineered salmon to a permanent extension of state and local sales tax deductions.”

The below provisions are included in today’s spending bill:

State and Local Sales Tax Deduction - After numerous extensions of the state and local sales tax deduction over the past decade, Washingtonians now will no longer face ambiguity on the status of their deductions. The tax extenders package includes Senator Cantwell’s bill to permanently extend the state and local sales tax deduction providing fairness for taxpayers in states that don’t have an income tax. In 2012, some 900,000 Washington state residents took advantage of the state sales tax deduction, reducing their taxable income by $1.9 billion for an average savings of $602.

Funding for Firefighting, Wildland Fire Suppression and Research – The omnibus includes increases in the fire accounts for research, suppression, and treatment of hazardous fuels, such that the Forest Service will now have $1.62 billion for fire suppression – which would have covered this year’s expensive fire season. The omnibus also includes over $600 million of additional money to the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior for firefighting. This is more than a 50 percent increase over what was in last year’s budget.

Mandatory Frankenfish Labeling - With the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon, the omnibus spending bill includes a Murkowski provision pushed by Senator Cantwell to require the FDA to layout guidelines for the mandatory labeling of GE salmon and prevents interstate commerce for GE salmon prior to the FDA publishing said guidelines. GE salmon grow much faster than wild salmon and their potential biological impacts on wild salmon populations are unknown. Without this provision, the FDA would not require labeling of GE salmon, leaving consumers in the dark about what they are buying.

Supporting American Pollock Fishermen – Included in the omnibus spending bill is Senator Cantwell’s bill to change the market name of “Alaska pollock” to “pollock.” The bill will legally change the acceptable market name and outlaw pollock harvested in Russia from being passed off as “Alaska pollock” in the supermarket. In 2012, 113 million pounds of Russian pollock—which is less sustainable and lower quality than pollock from Alaskan fisheries—was sold to U.S. consumers as “Alaska pollock.”

Low Income Housing Tax Credit - Taking aim at growing homelessness in Washington state and across the country, the Improving the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Rate Act will make permanent Cantwell’s plan to fix low-income housing tax credits—a program that issues tax credits to states to help attract private investment in affordable housing projects. The fix will permanently extend the credit rates to 9 percent of eligible costs on new construction—ending an era where variable rates and lack of funding certainty made financing of affordable housing less predictable.