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Texas projects in two spending bills sent to president

WASHINGTON (AP) – Two spending bills approved Thursday will provide millions of dollars for Texas military construction projects and a wildlife refuge in South Texas.

The Senate on Thursday morning approved 97-1 a $10.5 billion military construction bill. It was passed by the House 409-1 on Wednesday, and provides $278.2 million for Texas military construction projects.

John McCain, R-Ariz., was the lone Senate vote against the bill. In the House, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside rejected the measure.

The legislation now requires final approval from President Bush.

The Fort Hood project will get $129.4 million, including $41 million for a barracks complex. Another $25.7 million would fund an Army aviation support facility in Austin.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the ranking Republican on the military construction appropriations subcommittee, said the 48 percent spending increase in the bill was needed to improve the quality of life for members of the military.

She said the bill contained $1 billion in projects for reservists, recognizing their role in anti-terrorism and Afghanistan operations.
Congress provided Texas $71 million more for military projects than the administration requested.

Also on its way to Bush was a $19.1 billion natural resources spending bill which includes $5 million for expansion of the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge at South Padre Island.

But a $5 million request for the Balcones Canyonlands Wildlife Refuge was approved in the House but rejected in the Senate.

The requested funds were to have been used for conservation and to buy property considered a habitat for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo.

Officials with the Balcones Cayonlands refuge could not be immediately reached.

The money provided for Laguna Atascosa expansion will go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which will buy 21,600 acres on South Padre Island currently owned by the Nature Conservancy.

The refuge is considered a globally important fish nursery and bird migration area.

The natural resources spending bill passed the Senate on Wednesday 95-3. It was approved earlier in the day by the House, 320-28.