|June 9, 2000 |
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 2001, as approved by the House Committee. As the Committee develops its version of the bill, your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.
The President's FY 2001 Budget is based on a balanced approach that maintains fiscal discipline, eliminates the national debt, extends the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, provides for an appropriately sized tax cut, establishes a new voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit in the context of broader reforms, expands health care coverage to more families, and funds critical investments for our future. An essential element of this approach is ensuring adequate funding for discretionary programs. To this end, the President has proposed discretionary spending limits at levels that we believe are necessary to serve the American people.
Unfortunately, the FY 2001 congressional budget resolution provides inadequate resources for discretionary investments. We need realistic levels of funding for critical government functions that the American people expect their government to perform well, including education, national security, law enforcement, environmental protection, natural resource conservation, preservation of our global leadership, air safety, food safety, economic assistance for the less fortunate, research and technology, and the administration of Social Security and Medicare. Based on the inadequate budget resolution, this bill fails to address critical needs of the American people.
The Administration appreciates the efforts by the Committee to accommodate a part of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocation, such as increased funding over the FY 2000 enacted levels for national park and other land management operations. However, the allocation is simply insufficient to make the necessary investments in programs funded by this bill. As a result, the bill severely underfunds the President's Lands Legacy Initiative, the Native American Initiative, the Clean Water Action Plan, programs for clean and efficient energy, National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, and other critical programs discussed below. The bill also includes several legislative riders that are highly objectionable to the Administration, such as provisions concerning the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project and the prohibition of funding for the management of or planning related to national monuments designated by the President. The Committee's failure to fund key programs sufficiently and its inclusion of damaging riders would lead the President's senior advisors to recommend a veto if the bill were presented to the President in its current form.
Below is a discussion of our specific concerns with the Committee mark-up. We look forward to working with the Committee to resolve these concerns as the bill moves forward.
Objectionable Legislative Riders
The Administration strongly opposes the environmental and other authorization provisions in the Committee bill, which are inappropriate for inclusion in an appropriations act. Such riders rarely receive the level of congressional and public review required of authorization language, and they often override existing environmental and natural resource protections.
The Administration believes that the following are among the most objectionable provisions.
The Administration urges the Committee to report a clean bill that does not attempt to roll back environmental protections or tribal policies, benefit special interests, or circumvent authorization or administrative procedures by attaching riders to appropriations bills.
Lands Legacy Initiative/Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
The Administration strongly opposes the Committee decisions not to fund major portions of the President's Lands Legacy Initiative. Such reductions are unacceptable. The FY 2001 congressional budget resolution has placed these important conservation programs in jeopardy by rejecting the Administration's request for a dedicated funding stream. The Committee has followed with a insufficient overall funding level for the initiative that represents a 75-percent cut to the Administration's request and a 56-percent reduction from the FY 2000 enacted level. These reductions would undermine Federal land conservation efforts to protect national treasures, such as the Everglades, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, California Desert, Lake Tahoe Basin, Giant Sequoia groves, Silver Mountain tundra, Colorado Sand Dunes, and various Civil War Battlefields. State and community conservation efforts would also suffer due to inadequate Federal support for State and local programs to acquire and protect environmentally-sensitive lands, enhance forests and wildlife habitat, promote urban forests and outdoor recreation, and address sprawl. These reductions would foreclose opportunities to protect those priority locations, such as the great Northern Forests, that are vulnerable to development pressures. It would be short-sighted not to provide adequate support for the important Lands Legacy Initiative, given the bipartisan recognition of the need for the Federal Government, the States, and the private sector to protect open spaces and preserve America's great places.
Department of Energy
The Administration strongly opposes the Committee's decision to underfund critical programs at the Department of Energy to enhance our energy efficiency. The Committee funds these programs at a level below even last year's level and $120 million below the President's request. Particularly at this time of increased focus on our energy security and energy infrastructure, it would be irresponsible for the Congress not to adequately fund this important part of the Administration's energy policy. The important breakthroughs in energy efficiency technologies and practices that these programs support will help make America more energy independent, enhance reliability, and save money for businesses and consumers. Examples of important programs seriously affected include efforts to increase the energy efficiency of vehicles and home weatherization assistance to help reduce energy bills for low-income households.
In the past several years, the Committee has repeatedly attempted to mask dramatic cuts below the Administration's budget for energy conservation by moving programs between the Fossil Energy R&D and Energy Conservation accounts. This year, the Committee is proposing to merge those two accounts completely. Such a merger would make budgeting and financial management more difficult and appears primarily intended to mask once again severe cuts to the Energy Conservation request. The Administration opposes the merger of these accounts.
Native American Programs
The Administration appreciates the Committee's continued support for Indian trust funds management improvements but is concerned over the Committee's limited allocations for critical Native American programs. Although the Committee provides a modest $18 million increase over the FY 2000 enacted level for the operations of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), this level is simply inadequate to fund the current level of services and undercuts the Administration's Government-wide Native American Programs Initiative. Of particular concern is the Committee's decision to reduce funding for BIA construction $13 million below the FY 2000 enacted level and $182 million below the President's request. The Committee's funding reduction would seriously undercut BIA's ongoing efforts to maintain safe schools, provide enhanced educational opportunities for nearly 50,000 Indian children, improve school accountability and performance, strengthen tribal college operations, improve public safety throughout Indian Country, and assist in improving quality of life on reservations through the housing improvement and road maintenance programs. The Administration urges the Committee to support the Native American Programs Initiative.
The Administration is very concerned that the Committee has significantly underfunded health care services to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Native Americans continue to experience health disparities -- mortality rates for alcoholism, tuberculosis, diabetes, and accidents are all more than three times higher for Indian people than they are for all Americans. The Indian Health Service (IHS) finances access to health care for 1.5 million Native Americans. The Committee has included only $30 million of the $230 million increase requested to improve access to health care for Native Americans. The President's FY 2001 Budget proposes to support an additional 1,460 hospitals days and 57,200 additional visits to doctors and dentists purchased from the private sector through Contract Health Services. The budget also seeks increased support for tribally-operated facilities and services for diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, emergency medical services, and dental and mental health. The Committee allocation would force IHS to absorb anticipated cost increases in FY 2001 and cause a further reduction in health services.
Clean Water Action Plan
The Administration is concerned with reductions to other key programs, including Clean Water Action Plan (CWAP). Such reductions would halt the substantial progress made to date in improving water quality and watershed health. Efforts to improve or restore over 11,000 miles of stream corridor by FY 2005, accelerate range allotment planning, and clean up miles of polluted streams caused by past coal mining practices under the Administration's Appalachian Clean Stream Initiative would be in jeopardy. Further, the reductions in science assistance to Federal, State, and local agencies would hinder efforts to assess water quality and meet responsibilities for water quality protection. Similarly, the decrease in Forest Service CWAP funding would dramatically affect road maintenance and decommissioning, rangeland vegetation management, fish habitat and wildlife inventory and monitoring activities, watershed improvements, and the Stewardship Incentive Program.
Land Management Operations
The Administration commends the Committee for taking steps to address some operational and maintenance needs of land management agencies in the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture. The funding levels provided, however, still fail to address adequately many priority maintenance and operational needs identified in the President's budget, including the Forest Service recreation and tourism initiative, the National Park Service's Natural Resource Challenge, Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement, and BLM management of the Headwaters Forest and other specially designated areas.
In addition, by failing to include the requested funds for forest planning, the bill would contribute to the backlog of land management plans needing revision and prevent the Forest Service from integrating current science and public priorities into forest plans. Species inventory and monitoring funding would be reduced by 27 percent from the President's budget. This reduction could undermine the credibility and legal defensibility of natural resource projects that provide goods and services to the American people. Furthermore, adequate funding for survey and manage activities, a requirement for most projects in the Pacific Northwest, has not been incorporated. The bill funds forest products at a level of $25 million, or eleven percent, above the request, at the expense of the wildlife management and ecosystem planning programs. The Administration urges the Committee to redirect unrequested funds to these high priority programs.
The Administration commends the Committee for directing most construction funds towards agency priorities. Unfortunately, the Committee's allocation is insufficient to maintain existing facilities, such as Indian schools and park historic structures, or to address new responsibilities, such as the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The Administration urges the House to provide additional funds to support the construction, major repair, and rehabilitation projects identified in the agencies' five-year priority lists.
Millennium Initiative to Save America's Treasures
The Administration objects to the Committee decision not to fund the $30 million Presidential initiative to commemorate the Millennium by preserving the Nation's historic sites and cultural artifacts that are America's treasures. We urge the Committee to restore funding for this highly successful program.
U.S. Territory Programs
The Administration objects to the Committee's decision not to provide the full $10 million reimbursement to Guam for costs imposed upon it by the U.S. Compact of Free Association with the Micronesian nations. The territorial government is incurring significant health, education, and other costs in providing essential services to citizens of the nations living in Guam by virtue of the compact. In addition, the Administration is disappointed that the Committee has refused to support the proposed $10 million advance appropriation for the Virgin Islands. This funding would provide the fiscally hard-pressed territorial government with needed aid and an incentive to continue reforming its budget practices.
National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities
The Administration strongly objects to the Committee-proposed funding levels for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Committee freezes these important cultural programs at their FY 2000 enacted level. This level would prevent NEA from moving forward with its Challenge America program to support, directly or in partnership with States, arts education and access to the arts in thousands of under-served communities throughout the country. NEH would not be able to expand its summer seminar series to provide professional development opportunities to our Nation's teachers, nor broaden the reach of its Rediscover America initiative to bring the humanities to more communities nationwide. IMLS would be precluded from moving forward on digitization efforts, and from expanding after-school programs in museums and on-line access to museums. We urge the Committee to provide the Administration's request for these important cultural, educational, and artistic programs for communities across America. The Administration supports an amendment expected to be offered to increase funding for NEA and NEH.
Smithsonian and Other Cultural Agencies
The Committee's $423 million overall funding level for the Smithsonian, which is $40 million less than the Administration's request and $15 million below the FY 2000 enacted level, would prevent the Institution from addressing critical repair and restoration needs. The National Gallery of Art and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum have similar maintenance needs and should be funded at the President's requested levels. The Administration seeks to preserve and protect our Nation's treasures, as well as to provide safe and continued access to the public, and will work with the Committee to fund these important programs.
The Administration is concerned that the Committee provides no funding for continued operation of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and cuts nearly in half the $15 million request for the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation. We urge the Committee to fund the new $1 million District of Columbia Arts and Education Grants program within the Commission of Fine Arts, which is a community-based arts education program that will provide training and exposure in the arts to under-served young people and reinforce the importance of the arts as basic to education.