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Federal appropriations bill includes $167 million for local Vermont projects

From left: Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, Congressman Peter Welch, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Patrick Leahy discuss the Omnibus Appropriations Bill
Pat Bradley
From left: Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, Congressman Peter Welch, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Patrick Leahy discuss the Omnibus Appropriations Bill

President Biden signed the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill earlier this month. Vermont’s congressional delegation and the mayor of the state’s largest city are hailing investments for the Green Mountain State.

The $1.5 trillion package includes $730 billion in non-defense and $782 billion in defense funding.

Senior Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said more than $167 million has been allocated for Vermont projects in what is now called Congressionally Directed Spending, or earmarks.

“We received something like 300 requests from Vermont for areas of helping," Leahy said. "I looked at the projects. We could help Vermont families, Vermont communities, Vermont’s economy in the years to come. And with the results of those requests we got from Vermonters we have $167 million. It’s going to be invested to projects to help revitalize downtowns, train workers, collapsing infrastructure, but also looking after the most vulnerable among us.”

Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, an independent, says one of the distinctive initiatives in the appropriations bill is the reemergence of earmarks.

“Now over the years there has been a lot of criticisms of these earmarks. But I disagree," Sanders said. "Congressionally directed funds are part of a very democratic process. And what it means is that I and my staff and Senator Leahy and Congressman Welch and their staff can go out around the state, talk to people from one end of Vermont to the other, get a sense of what their needs are and do our best to fund those needs. And we have received hundreds and hundreds of very strong requests. Clearly we could not fund all of them but I’m proud of what we were able to do.”

At-large Democratic Congressman Peter Welch, now running for Senate, noted that any of the Congressionally Directed Spending must be transparent and for a public purpose.

“I’m just going to mention two of the proposals that were included because they’re emblematic of how hard Vermonters work," Welch said. "One is only $200,000. In Congressional terms that’s a small amount. But if you live in East Calais, Vermont that is a lot of money and the folks there with their housing trust got together to save the local general store and also on the upstairs of the store to convert it into three housing units. That matters in a small community. Another one is in Derby, Vermont. You know what they want? They want a park. People who live there and who love Derby are now able to improve Derby.”

Democratic Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger joined the Congressional delegation to talk about how the state’s largest city will benefit from the earmarks.

“Really with this bill we are able to take on some of our biggest challenges," the mayor said. "The airport and the Church Street Marketplace are two of the largest city-owned economic engines in this region and the airport is going to get $7 million. And another $1 million is going to the rebuilding of the Church Street Marketplace. We are opening this new shelter pod community that is co-located with a community resource center. In this bill is $400,000 to help us build that community resource center. I hope those are illustrative of the direct ways in what our federal delegation has done and led here to provide direct assistance to municipalities and localities on some of their biggest challenges.”

Former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan is the Republican challenging Welch in the Senate race.