Today, U.S. Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced the Return Our State Shares (ROSS) Act, which would exempt certain programs, including the RESTORE Act, from unnecessary sequestration delays that do not reduce the deficit. Unlike most accounts impacted by sequestration, where the funds are simply cancelled, the funds exempted in the ROSS Act are withheld at the beginning of each fiscal year and then returned at the beginning of the following fiscal year and do not go towards reducing the deficit. Other cosponsors include U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

"The Gulf Coast economy got pummeled from the BP oil spill in 2010, and the RESTORE Act made long-overdue coastal restoration work in Louisiana and our neighboring states possible," Vitter said. "It is absolutely ridiculous for States to wait an arbitrary amount of time to receive funds that are theirs, regardless of sequestration. Our legislation will cut the red tape and allow States to bypass the unnecessary one-year delays on program funds that are not affected by sequestration and do not reduce the deficit."

The ROSS Act will exempt several accounts from the one-year delay during sequestration, including the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, which was established through the RESTORE Act, Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration Program funds, and payments to States under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) and the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA).

In 2012, Sen. Vitter was instrumental in passing the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States (RESTORE) Act, which would ensure that at least 80 percent of the fines BP must pay under the Clean Water Act (CWA) would be set aside for coastal restoration work along the Gulf Coast states, rather than going into a general fund. Due to sequestration, RESTORE Act funds have been withheld for one fiscal year before eventually given to States. Click here to read more.

Click here to read the text of the Return Our State Shares Act.