Two powerful Kentucky Republicans have an idea to boost an economic development agency that helps Appalachia: Move it out of the nation's capital.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and veteran Rep. Hal Rogers are sponsoring a bill they say will refocus the Appalachian Regional Commission to invest more in the poorest communities in 13 Appalachian states. The bill, introduced Monday in the House and Senate, would move the panel's headquarters from Washington to a location in Appalachia to be chosen later. The lawmakers say similar commissions are headquartered in their respective regions, reducing administrative costs and making them more accountable to communities they serve.
The bill also would increase funding to distressed counties under the commission's Area Development Program. President Donald Trump's proposed budget targets the Appalachian panel for elimination, but lawmakers from both parties pledge it will remain intact. McConnell said he has supported the Appalachian commission, known as ARC, for decades, but believes it can be improved and made more efficient. The commission works to foster economic growth and boost the workforce in parts of 13 states from Mississippi to New York. "I am proud to partner with my friend, Congressman Rogers, to introduce our bill to make desperately needed reforms at ARC and provide vital assistance to those who need it most," McConnell said. Rogers, a 19-term congressman and former chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said the commission has long provided vital services such as connecting more families to clean water and sanitary sewer and helping rural communities compete in the digital economy. "However, every president over the past four decades has worked to abolish the ARC, questioning things like waste and mismanagement at the agency, so it's time for reform," Rogers said. He and McConnell structured the legislation to bring clear direction to the agency, reviving its core mission to boost economic development and reduce poverty in distressed counties, Rogers said.