The first full day of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce's annual D.C. Fly-In ended on a high note with some promising news from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell told the chamber delegation at a Wednesday night reception in the U.S. Capitol Building that he believes funding will be increased next year over previous amounts for the ongoing cleanup of the U.S. Department of Energy's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant site.
"We're actually going to be able to get more money for the cleanup this year than you had asked for," McConnell said.
"I think you asked for $30 million, and I believe we'll be able to get $40 million. I see some familiar faces around the room and we've worked together on a whole variety of things from the waterfront, to the airport, to the Olmsted -- which we finally got to complete last summer.
"Now we've got a new challenge of Asian carp and we're trying to figure out how to fix that. I'm happy to be in a position as majority leader to make a difference. Of the four Congressional leaders, I'm the only one not from New York or California, so I'm the guy that looks out for Middle America, and I have a favorite state," he said.
The chamber cited a funding increase as one of its federal priorities to advocate for during this year's Fly-In. The additional funding would help accelerate the site's cleanup which the chamber noted was a goal of the DOE's Environmental Management, which oversees the cleanup, and the community.
There are still several steps in the federal budget appropriations process, chamber president Sandra Wilson acknowledged, but McConnell's announcement was welcome news.
"We were expecting $270 million (to be allocated), which is what we've been getting," Wilson said. "This (additional $40 million) would put us around $310 million ... that's exciting."
According to the chamber president, Wednesday's news demonstrates the importance of the organization's ongoing efforts to be seen in Washington to advocate on behalf of the Paducah area.
"We work very hard for our community to build these relationships with our federal delegation and their staff, as well as all of the federal agencies that are here," Wilson said.
Wednesday's itinerary included, among other things, a tour of the U.S. Library of Congress and a special session featuring three women from Fancy Farm who have each gone on to take high-level positions with members of Congress.
"We had a great day. I had said earlier 'I don't think our day could get any better' ... but it did," Wilson said.