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Senator Wyden vows to tax billionaires to pay for water improvements at the reservation

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore, U.S. Interior Department Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland, and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, visit Warm Spring Friday, Oct. 15, bringing news of project funding the reservation will receive if Congress passes the infrastructure bill.

A powerful delegation swooped into Warm Springs Friday, Oct. 15, bringing promises of money for the aging water system there.

Oregon's two United States Senators, Ron Wyden, D-Ore, and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, flanked U.S. Interior Department Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland.

The Interior Secretary herself, Deb Haaland, canceled at the last minute to respond to a family emergency.

"We are so excited that for the first time ever in American history a tribal member is in the cabinet," said Merkley. "She really, really understands the set of issues that affect our tribal nations."

The group came to promise relief for water issues plaguing Warm Springs residents.

"Every family deserves clean, potable water and affordable drinking water," said Newland, "but tribal communities are too often left behind in that effort."

For years people living on the reservation have had frequent "boil water" notices because of contamination, or the system doesn't have enough pressure to deliver water at all.

"Today's visit makes it clear we need to make investments in water storage, water delivery, and water treatment infrastructure," said Newland.

Wyden announced his Western Tribal Water Infrastructure Act which earmarks $250 million dollars to help build new or improve current water systems in tribal communities throughout Oregon.

"Those who have considered this land their home since time immemorial deserve more than boil your water notices," said Wyden. "We know in affluent neighborhoods people aren't going through that kind of challenge."

The delegation rolled out the billion-dollar benefits tribes will get if Congress passes the infrastructure bill: $11 billion dedicated to tribal infrastructure, $3.5 billion of that dedicated specifically to water issues.

"Water is a basic human right," said Wyden. "And soon Congress has a real chance to make a real down payment on building a new system that fulfills America's treaty obligations to Native American tribes."

"It is really important for tribal communities to have good water infrastructure," said Merkley, noting funding will also address broadband service on reservations, climate resilience, hazardous fuels that drive wildfires, firefighter training, and transportation.

Merkley chairs the Appropriation Committee for the Department of Interior, and Wyden chairs the Finance Subcommittee for Infrastructure, putting them both in key positions to secure funding for projects in Warm Springs and other Oregon communities.

Wyden also chairs the Joint Committee on Taxation.

"The billionaires who you've been reading about who've paid little or no income taxes for years are going to pay their fair share," promised Wyden. "When I change the tax law and billionaires pay their fair share, that money can come right to places like this so that tribes get a fair share, and it is long, long overdue."


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