WASHINGTON — The budget agreement passed by Congress last week includes billions of dollars for addressing the opioid crisis, as well as infrastructure and tax credits for the development of clean coal technology.
Lawmakers passed the two-year bipartisan deal early Friday morning, which was signed by President Donald Trump hours later. U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted for the budget bill, as did Republican Reps. David McKinley and Evan Jenkins.
“Not only does it provide a clear path forward to fund the government, but it promises resources that will support and advance numerous issues that are critically important to West Virginians, many of which I have long fought for,” Capito said in press release.
Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., was among 67 House Republicans who voted against the agreement. In a statement, Mooney said he was concerned about the deal’s associated spending, adding the deal would add $1.5 trillion to the national debt.
“It is my belief the federal government should spend no more money than it takes in, just as hardworking taxpayers must balance their family budgets every month,” he said. “I will continue to push for a return to the regular appropriations process which will allow all Americans to have a voice in how their tax dollars are spent through their representatives.”
Mooney — as well as Capito, McKinley and Jenkins — voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December, which is estimated to add around $1.5 trillion to the deficit.
The measure provides $6 billion over the next two fiscal years for efforts regarding the opioid crisis and mental health. Funding will go toward state grants, prevention programs and law enforcement agencies.
West Virginia leads the nation in drug overdose deaths with 52 deaths per 100,000 people in 2016. The White House Council of Economic Advisers reported in November the opioid epidemic had an national economic cost of $504 billion in 2015.
According to a January study from the American Enterprise Institute — a conservative policy organization — the opioid epidemic costs West Virginia more than $8.8 billion annually, or slightly more than 12 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.
The budget agreement sets aside $20 billion for infrastructure, including broadband and water systems in rural communities. It also includes a provision to invest in carbon capture technology and devices, which could be used at coal power plants.
The budget agreement puts $165 billion for the military and $4 billion for efforts to improve veterans hospitals and similar health facilities. It also creates a joint committee that will be responsible for proposing legislation to protect the pensions of coal miners.
The agreement also extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program from six years to 10 years.
Manchin said he was happy to see a bipartisan deal reached, but noted lawmakers need to address spending in the near future.
“I remain very concerned about our country’s addiction to spending and our ever-increasing debt, but I will not hold our military and these other important priorities hostage,” he said Friday in a press release.