This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 2000, as reported by the House Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.
The allocation of discretionary resources available to the House under the Congressional Budget Resolution is simply inadequate to make the necessary investments that our citizens need and expect. The President's FY 2000 Budget proposes levels of discretionary spending that meet such needs while conforming to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings proposals in mandatory and other programs available to help finance this spending. Congress has approved, and the President has signed into law, nearly $29 billion of such offsets in appropriations legislation since 1995. The Administration urges the Congress to consider such proposals and to reduce unrequested funding for programs and projects in this bill.
The Administration appreciates efforts by the Committee to accommodate certain of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocation. However, the allocation to the Subcommittee is simply inadequate. Moreover, the Administration would strongly oppose an amendment, which it understands may be offered as a floor amendment, to reduce the already inadequate resources allocated to this bill. The amendment would reportedly require an across-the-board reduction of $138 million below the Committee-approved levels. A reduction of this magnitude would be both unjustified and unnecessary, requiring further cuts in basic services provided by the broad array of agencies funded in this bill, including education and health care for Native Americans, and national park and forest facilities used by millions of Americans annually.
The President's Lands Legacy Initiative is funded at only $219 million, 73 percent below the request. It would be short-sighted to reduce the important Lands Legacy Initiative drastically, given the growing bipartisan recognition of the need to protect and enhance open spaces and preserve America's great places.
The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to minimize extraneous, objectionable provisions, but we are concerned about provisions adversely affecting the environment and natural resources, which would likely be rejected by the Congress if considered on their own merits. The Administration urges the House to keep the bill free of extraneous provisions.
The following highlights our specific concerns with the Committee bill.
Environmental and Other Legislative Riders
The Administration objects to several provisions in the bill. The Administration opposes a provision that would prohibit revisions to forest plans until final planning regulations are published, thereby preventing new science and sustainable forest practices from being incorporated into expiring forest plans. Further, the Administration objects to the Committee bill's funding prohibition on certain inter-agency reimbursable programs included in the bill, such as the Department of Commerce's spectrum management and coordination program. These organizations provide necessary services and are dependent on these reimbursable arrangements. In addition, since the Administration has stated that it does not intend to implement the Kyoto Protocol on global climate change until it has been ratified by the Senate, section 331 is an unnecessary restriction.
The Administration also opposes Section 326 that would prevent funds provided in the bill from being used to support the American Heritage Rivers initiative. This rider is an unworkable infringement on the Administration's ability to implement the widely-supported American Heritage Rivers initiative.
In addition, we oppose a provision containing new reporting requirements that would further delay completion of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project (WA, OR, ID, MT). Other examples of objectionable riders include a provision that would automatically extend Bureau of Land Management grazing permits, one that would provide for indefinite renewal of grazing permits at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area (WA), and one that would prohibit establishment of a National Wildlife Refuge in the Kankakee River (IL, IN) watershed.
Finally, the Administration appreciates and shares the Committee's commitment to ensuring adequate fresh water supplies for the Everglades, but these issues should be considered as part of the authorization of the comprehensive plan for restoring the Everglades.
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.
Lands Legacy Initiative/Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
The Administration strongly opposes the Committee's decision not to fund major portions of the President's Lands Legacy Initiative, such as the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and the State and Private Forestry grant program. No funds are provided for State land acquisition, open space planning, or urban park grants, and funding is greatly reduced for land acquisitions in national parks, refuges, forests, and other public lands. In addition, it would be premature and inappropriate to eliminate the funding that the Congress previously approved to initiate acquisition of the majestic Baca Ranch in New Mexico while negotiations with the landowners are ongoing.
Land Management Operations
The Administration commends the Committee's actions to address the operational and maintenance needs of land management agencies in the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture. While the Administration appreciates the $11 million increase provided for Abandoned Mine Lands reclamation, as part of the Clean Water Action Plan, full funding of the $25 million request would allow significant progress in addressing acid mine drainage and watershed problems in the Appalachian region.
The Administration is concerned, however, with the Committee's reductions to the President's request for key conservation programs. The Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species program is reduced by $10 million, or nine percent, below the request and the Forest Service's wildlife management, ecosystem planning, and research programs are reduced by $65 million, or 13 percent, from the request. Moreover, the bill increases funding for Forest Service timber sales management by $23 million, or 12 percent, above the request. The Administration urges the Committee to redirect these unrequested funds and to adopt the Administration's timber sale user fee and offset proposals to fund the higher priority programs.
Millennium Initiative to Save America's Treasures
The Administration objects to the lack of funding for the $30 million Presidential initiative to commemorate the Millennium by preserving the Nation's historic sites and cultural artifacts that are America's treasures, but appreciates the Committee's willingness to address the needs of this important program as the bill moves forward. Funds provided by Congress in FY 1999 have already been used with matching State, local, and private funds to preserve such important national symbols as the Star Spangled Banner, the 1905 Wright III (the world's first practical airplane), and the Louis Armstrong House and Archives.
Bureau of Indian Affairs and Office of Special Trustee for American Indians
The Administration commends the Committee's action to fully fund the request for Indian trust management improvements that are essential to enable the Department of the Interior to continue making progress in this multi-faceted reform effort. The Administration, however, opposes the decision not to fund the $30 million Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) School Construction Bonding Initiative for much-needed replacement or repairs of BIA-funded elementary and secondary schools. The Administration is concerned that the Committee has provided only $13 million of the $27 million increase requested to meet the needs of expanding school populations. Likewise, the Administration is concerned that the Committee has funded only one program increase, $5 million for the Indian Self-Determination Fund, of the $17 million increase requested for Tribal Priority Allocations.
Priority Construction and Maintenance Needs
In response to congressional concerns, the National Park Service (NPS) has taken steps to improve construction program management by controlling costs and setting priorities through an objective, merit-based review process. These steps would be undermined, however, by the Committee's earmarking of $22 million for 18 unrequested and unscheduled NPS projects. The Administration urges Congress to support construction management reforms by funding those projects that have been selected in the five-year construction priority lists of the NPS and other land management agencies in the Department of the Interior, as well as funds requested for maintenance management improvement.
National Endowment for the Arts/National Endowment for the Humanities/Institute for Museum and Library Services
The Administration strongly objects to the proposed funding levels for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Office of Museum Services. The Committee's proposed $52 million, or 35-percent, reduction from the request would preclude NEA from moving forward with its Challenge America initiative, which emphasizes arts education and access to under-served communities across America. The $39 million, or 26-percent, reduction from the request would preclude NEH from expanding its summer seminar series to provide professional development opportunities to our Nation's teachers as well as broadening the outreach of its humanities programs. The nearly $10 million, or 29-percent, reduction from the request would preclude IMLS from moving forward on the digital library for education, expanding of after-school programs in museums, and enhancing the Museums On-line program to improve museum access to communities and schools. The Administration urges the Congress to approve funding for the Endowments and IMLS' Office of Museum Services at the requested levels.
Other Funding Issues
The Administration is concerned that the Committee has rejected the $15 million increase for science programs of the U.S. Geological Survey. This increase is intended to support the land management bureaus. Maintaining the FY 1999 enacted funding level for the Office of the Solicitor would seriously undermine this vital office, requiring personnel reductions and impairing Indian trust reform and other important activities.
The Administration also objects to the elimination of funding for digitizing collections in the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service as a part of the digital library for education, denying school children around the nation the opportunity to explore the unique materials available in the collections of these two agencies.
Indian Health Service - Department of Health and Human Services
The Administration appreciates the Committee's support of the increase in funding over the FY 1999 enacted level for Indian health, which is $14 million below the $170 million requested increase for the Indian Health Service. This funding increase represents a significant step towards continuing demonstration of the Federal commitment to provide quality health care to 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Natives. The Administration is pleased that the Committee has provided the full $35 million increase requested for Contract Support costs. However, the Administration is concerned that the inclusion of language on pro rata is premature given that authorization hearings, authorization action, and tribal consultation have not been completed. The Administration will continue to work with Congress and the tribes to resolve this. We hope that the final mark will provide our requested levels in women's health, information systems, dental health, mental health, sanitation, maintenance, and public health nursing -- all critical areas of need for Native American communities.
Department of Energy
The Administration opposes several reductions contained in the Committee bill. The Committee funding level for the Department of Energy's Conservation program is $151 million below the President's request, on a comparable program basis, and is $5 million below the FY 1999 enacted level. In particular, this reduction would seriously hamper the progress that is being made in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) to promote the development of 80-mpg family sedans. Such a reduction would also prevent the Partnership for Advancing Technologies in Housing (PATH) from achieving dramatic savings in the energy operating costs of new homes. The Committee's reduction of $34 million to the request for the Weatherization Assistance Program would mean that approximately 17,000 fewer low-income homes would be weatherized than requested. The Administration also opposes the 25-percent State matching requirement. The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for funding of the second-year payment to the California State Teachers' Retirement Fund, which was part of the privatization of the Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve.