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July 21, 1998
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on H.R. 4193, the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies
Appropriations Bill, FY 1999. Your consideration of the Administration's
views would be appreciated.
The Administration urges the House to pass a clean bill that does not attempt to roll back environmental protections and circumvent the proper public process by attaching riders to appropriation bills. Regrettably, the Committee bill under-funds priority programs and includes damaging riders, such as the provision concerning the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project. In addition, it is our understanding that, if adopted, the rule for consideration of the bill will permit a single Member to strike all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Based on these concerns, if the Committee bill, as modified by the rule and associated motion, were presented to the President, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.
The Administration appreciates efforts by the Committee to accommodate certain of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocation such as funding for national park operations. However, the allocation is simply insufficient to make the necessary investments in programs funded by this bill. As a result, a variety of critical programs are under-funded. The only way to achieve the appropriate investment level is to offset discretionary spending by using savings in other areas. The President's FY 1999 Budget proposes levels of discretionary spending for FY 1999 that conform to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings in mandatory and other programs available to help finance this spending. In the Transportation Equity Act, Congress -- on a broad, bipartisan basis -- took similar action in approving funding for surface transportation programs together with mandatory offsets. The Administration urges the Congress to consider such mandatory proposals for other priority discretionary programs.
Below is a discussion of our specific concerns with the Committee bill. We look forward to working with the House to resolve these concerns as the bill moves forward.
Departments of the Interior and Agriculture
The Administration appreciates the Committee's funding of maintenance programs, particularly those for health and safety, in Interior's land management agencies. However, the Administration strongly objects to inadequate funding provided by the Committee for high priority programs within the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, including Committee actions that would:
Forest Service General Administration. The rule would shift $67 million from General Administration to wildland fire suppression. This is unnecessary since the Committee mark is at the request level and a $250 million contingency is available for use if necessary. Such a transfer would deprive individual national forests of important on-the-ground natural resource management capability, delay needed Forest Service computer system and financial accountability improvements, and unwisely eliminate key agency leadership positions.
Priority Land Acquisition Funding. The Administration objects to the Committee's continued inaction on the promised congressional release of the $362 million appropriated from the Land and Water Conservation Fund in FY 1998. As requested by Congress, the Administration has submitted a list of proposed land acquisitions. In response, the Committee has not only held back the FY 1998 Title V funding but also has funded some items on the Administration's FY 1998 list with FY 1999 funding, resulting in critical acquisitions planned for both years being delayed and unfunded.
Millennium Program. The Administration strongly urges the House to provide funding in FY 1999 for the "Millennium Program to Save America's Treasures." The Committee has failed to provide any funding for this important effort. The President's budget requests $50 million to increase the Historic Preservation Fund to make a special effort to preserve our history and culture as we enter the new millennium. This program is designed to leverage Federal, State, and private funding to have the greatest collective impact on our rapidly deteriorating national treasures.
Purchaser Road Credit Program. The Administration fully supports the Committee's decision to eliminate the Purchaser Road credit program. The Committee bill includes a provision that would ensure that the value of road construction by purchasers continues to be included in calculations for the Payments to States. To permit increased certainty and better local planning more directly, we urge the House to adopt the Administration's proposal to provide a high, fixed level of payments to States.
Timber Sales. The Administration objects to the increase of $12 million over the request for timber sales in order to produce 3.6 billion board feet, 200 million board feet over the budget estimate.
The Administration strongly objects to certain language in the Committee bill, including provisions that would:
Indian Health Service (Department of Health and Human Services)
The Administration is concerned that the Committee has not included a $10 million increase requested for prevention and treatment of alcohol/substance abuse and breast/cervical cancer, which is part of an HHS-wide effort to reduce health disparities in minority populations. The Administration intends to work with the Congress to fund these important initiatives within funds available for the Indian Health Service. The Administration is also concerned that the Committee has included authorizing language, without hearings or tribal consultation, that would require contract support costs to be distributed to tribes and tribal organizations on a pro-rata (proportional) basis.
Department of Energy
The Administration strongly objects to the House's severe reduction to the Department of Energy's Energy Conservation program. While the Committee mark appears to be $18 million higher than the FY 1998 enacted level ($630 million vs. $612 million), it includes $43 million for a program that previously has been funded in the Fossil Energy R&D account. The House's funding for the programs traditionally included in the Energy Conservation Account is $587 million, a cut of $25 million from the FY 1998 level and a reduction of $222 million from the President's request of $809 million. Within this reduction, particularly severe damage is done to the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), for which the Committee mark is $14 million (roughly 10 percent) less than the current appropriation and $45 million below the request.
These cuts would eliminate all of the Administration's requested increase in Energy Conservation for development of technologies to improve industrial, transportation, and building efficiencies and to reduce carbon emissions. The inclusion of several special-interest earmarks in the Committee Report also would reduce the President's ability to gain maximum benefit from the available funds. The inclusion of the $43 million in the Energy Conservation account to fund a utility-scale turbine program that would continue to be managed by the Fossil Energy program is an inefficient management practice that would dilute accountability and should be avoided.
The Committee mark eliminates all of the funding requested for the Energy Information Administration to work on carbon emissions accounting and analysis ($2.5 million), and eliminates all of the requested increase in Fossil Energy R&D for high-priority carbon sequestration research ($10 million). The President's budget also requested $36 million for payment to the State of California for the Retired Teachers System, which is not included in the Committee mark. The Administration prefers that this payment be appropriated consistent with P.L. 104-106.
The Administration would like to work with the Congress to restore funding to these important Department of Energy programs as the bill moves through the process.
National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities
The Administration appreciates the Full Committee's restoration of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Administration strongly objects to striking NEA funding and strongly supports the amendment to restore such funding. We urge the House to provide funding for NEA and NEH at the President's requested level of $136 million each and for the Institute for Museum and Library Services at the requested level of $26 million.
Year 2000 Computer Conversion
In the FY 1999 Budget, the President has requested more than $1 billion for Y2K computer conversion. In addition, the budget anticipated that additional requirements would emerge over the course of the year and included an allowance for emergencies and other unanticipated needs. It is essential to make Y2K funding available quickly and flexibly. The House action striking the emergency fund in the Treasury and General Government Appropriations bill is very troubling, particularly in light of several Subcommittees, including the Interior Subcommittee, deciding to not fund the base Y2K request for several agencies.
The Committee's $397 million overall funding level for the Smithsonian, which is $22 million less than the Administration's request, would prevent the Institution from addressing current pressing needs. The Administration is concerned with the lack of support for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. The Administration encourages the Committee to provide the $16 million request for the construction of the Museum on the Mall, as well as the full $11 million requested for the programs and operations of the Cultural Resources Center. In addition, the Administration urges that the $3 million request for digitization of Smithsonian exhibits be restored.
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The Administration urges the House to provide the full $33 million requested for the Kennedy Center. In particular, we ask that the Committee provide the full construction request of $20 million, which is also included in the Administration's pending authorization bill.
The Administration urges the House to provide the full $32.6 million requested for the Holocaust Museum.
Infringement on Executive Authority
There are several provisions in the Committee bill that purport to require congressional approval before Executive Branch execution of aspects of the bill. The Administration will interpret such provisions to require notification only, since any other interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS vs. Chadha.