March means two things in southern and eastern Kentucky: March Madness in the Big Blue Nation #BBN and time to gear up for the annual PRIDE Spring Cleanup with 30,000 of our closest friends.
Coach Cal joined me and Cynthia for the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. We, of course, said a prayer for the Wildcats and Coach Cal surprised me with a piece of the basketball court from the 2012 NCAA National Championship, Kentucky’s 8th victory. Go Cats!
Unfortunately, due to the President’s sequestration experiment, many important government agencies, particularly the Department of Defense (DoD), are facing serious and damaging budget cuts. While the House voted twice to replace these across-the board cuts with targeted spending reductions, the Democrat-controlled Senate declined to act on these bills.
The Senate and President Obama refuse to make the tough decisions without insisting on raising taxes on Kentucky families and small businesses. 79 percent of Americans agree that our country spends too much, not taxes too little.
In the meantime, the Appropriations Committee and I are working hard to give our men and women in the military more flexibility and guidance by completing the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense and MilCon/VA Appropriations bills. While this won’t stop the dreaded sequestration, it will grant DoD much needed flexibility to better aid our nation’s Armed Forces throughout this process.
In other news, this week, during an Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, I questioned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on continued delays in issuing individual mining permits. These delays have contributed to slowed or shuttered mine operations across eastern Kentucky.
Despite a recent court decision which restored sole authority to the Corps to issue mining permits, there has been no end to the deadlock. With more than 2,000 miners receiving pink slips in 2012, one would think the Corps would work expeditiously to approve permits and help put miners back to work. I can assure you that I remain committed to helping our region’s mining families.
In conjunction with my announcement of the 2013 Congressional Art Competition, I also want to inform you of Congress’ latest decision in authorizing an academic competition promoting innovation among students from across the country in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. This competition will be modeled after the Congressional Art Competition, and would recognize winning entries of students in each Congressional District. I am looking forward to seeing some of the work of Kentucky’s brightest students here in Washington and ensuring that America remains a leader in our increasingly competitive global economy.
I joined PRIDE at Whitley City Elementary School to unveil the 2013 PRIDE Spring Cleanup T-shirt Design Contest winner. Congratulations to third grader Casey Stephens. His artistic design inspired the T-shirt and this year’s cleanup theme: “Be a PRIDE Champion: Knock out Litter.” Casey is also the PRIDE Volunteer of the Month. To organize your PRIDE Spring Cleanup Event, visit kypride.org.
This month, it’s also time for high school artists across the region to submit their work for the 2013 Congressional Art Competition. The winner’s artwork will hang in the U.S. Capitol building for an entire year. The winning artist and a guest will also be invited to a reception to view the artwork on display. I am eager to see the talented work of our students again this year.
The beginning of March will forever hold a much different meaning for the people of Johnson, Laurel, Magoffin, Morgan and surrounding counties. March 2 marked the one year anniversary of the deadly tornadoes that ripped through our region, devastating dozens of families and destroying hundreds of businesses, schools and homes.
Together, we have cleaned up debris, put people back to work and repaired homes. Earlier this month, I joined Gov. Steve Beshear in announcing a $29 Million Revitalization Project for Morgan County. Hope is on the way. I am proud to be a part of such a resilient region where neighbors help one another in the darkest hour.