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September 8, 1998
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on S. 2237, the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies
Appropriations Bill, FY 1999, as reported by the Senate Appropriations
Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be
appreciated. Due to inadequate funding levels for priority programs and at
least 24 objectionable language riders, discussed below, the President's
senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill if it were presented
to him as approved by the Committee.
The Administration appreciates efforts by the Senate to accommodate certain of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocation. However, the allocation is simply insufficient to make the necessary investments in programs funded by this bill. 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. In addition, this year, as in the past, such mandatory offsets have been approved by the House and Senate in other appropriations bills. The Administration urges the Congress to consider such mandatory proposals for other priority discretionary programs, including those funded through this bill.
The Administration's specific concerns with funding and language provisions of the Senate Committee bill are discussed below.
Departments of the Interior and Agriculture
The Administration strongly objects to inadequate funding provided by the Committee for high priority programs within these two departments, including:
The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's cuts in land acquisition funding to protect our national parks, forests, refuges, and public lands. The Committee has provided $233 million of the $270 million requested, with Everglades land acquisition funds cut by half. This reduction in funding would prevent the Administration from making significant land acquisitions such as Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia and West Eugene Wetland in Oregon.
The Administration also objects to the Committee's continued inaction on the promised congressional release of the $362 million appropriated in FY 1998 for Federal priority land acquisitions. 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 1998 list with FY 1999 funding, resulting in critical acquisitions planned for both years being delayed or unfunded.
The Administration appreciates very much the $13 million provided to the National Park Service and the Smithsonian for Millennium Program projects. We strongly urge the Senate to provide full funding with maximum flexibility and discretion for allocation in order to preserve other important cultural and historic treasures for the next millennium that are in danger of deteriorating beyond repair. Many of these projects are time-sensitive and cannot be delayed.
Department of Energy
While higher than the House Committee mark, the Senate Committee's funding level represents a highly objectionable $162 million reduction to the President's request for Energy Conservation. The Committee mark would be damaging to progress in partnerships with industry on improved industrial energy efficiency, development of more efficient autos and trucks, and designs and materials for more efficient buildings.
The President's budget requests $36 million for payment to the State of California for the Retired Teachers System associated with the sale of Elk Hills, which is not included in the Committee bill. The Administration prefers that this payment be appropriated consistent with the FY1996 Defense Authorization Act (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.
Indian Health Service
The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill does not include funding increases requested for the President's Race Initiative, alcohol and substance abuse initiative, and for first-year construction of the Fort Defiance Health Facility. The Administration intends to work with the Senate to fund these important initiatives within funds available for the Indian Health Service.
The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's inclusion of authorizing language, without hearings or tribal consultation, that requires contract support costs to be distributed to tribes on a pro-rata (proportional) basis.
The Administration appreciates the Senate's support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). We urge the Senate 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.
Likewise, the Administration appreciates the Senate's support for the other cultural agencies funded by this bill, including funding for the National Museum of the American Indian and the full request for the National Gallery of Art, the Holocaust Museum, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. However, the Administration urges the Senate to provide the full $40 million request for repair and restoration in the Smithsonian Institution and the requested funding for digitization of the Smithsonian collections.