HR 4578 - - 07/10/2000
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July 10, 2000

(Sponsors: Stevens (R), Alaska; Gorton (R), Washington)

This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 2001, as reported by the Senate Committee. 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 efforts by the Committee to accommodate a part of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocations, such as increased funding over the FY 2000 enacted levels for national park and other land management operations and important cultural agencies. The Administration also strongly supports the goal expressed in the Committee mark-up of keeping the bill clean of environmental and other authorization provisions. However, the allocation falls short of making the necessary investments in programs funded by the bill. As a result, the Committee bill severely underfunds the President's Lands Legacy Initiative, the Native American Initiative, programs for clean and efficient energy, the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, and other critical programs, as described below. Unfortunately, the bill also includes several legislative riders that are highly objectionable to the Administration.

The Committee's inability to fund key programs sufficiently and its inclusion of damaging riders would lead the President's senior advisers 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 bill. 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-reported 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 following are among the most objectionable provisions in the bill (listed in bill order):

Additionally, the Administration understands that highly objectionable riders may be offered on the Senate Floor that would:

The Administration urges the Senate to pass a bill that the President can sign, 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

The President's Lands Legacy Initiative is seriously underfunded by over $600 million (66 percent below the request). These reductions would undermine Federal land conservation efforts to protect national treasures. 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. It would be shortsighted not to provide adequate support for the important Lands Legacy Initiative, given the bipartisan recognition of the need for the Federal Government, the States, Tribes, local governments, and other groups to protect open spaces and preserve America's great places.

Department of the Interior

The Administration appreciates the Committee's $344 million increase above the House bill for the Department of the Interior, and the extension of the recreation entrance fee authority. However, this mark still falls well below the President's request, representing an overall reduction of eight percent. While the level of funding provided by the Committee for operations of the land management agencies in the Department is about $178 million more than the FY 2000 level, the level provided still fails to address adequately priority maintenance and operational needs identified in the President's budget, including the Fish and Wildlife Service's law enforcement initiative, the endangered species listing program, BLM's management of national monuments and other special areas, and the Geological Survey's science priorities and other key activities.

Native American Programs

The Administration appreciates the Committee's recommendation of an additional $212 million above the House bill for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of the Special Trustee (OST). The Committee is commended for the support it has given to OST's trust reform activities, operation of tribal colleges, construction of six BIA replacement schools, major repairs and maintenance for other BIA schools, implementation of new and expanded tribal contract and compact agreements, and meeting Federal pay adjustments. However, the Committee's mark still falls $116 million below the request for Native American programs, especially in such critical areas as BIA's Indian trust fund management improvements; Indian school operations, early childhood development, and special residential programs; law enforcement and public safety services; and, housing improvement and road maintenance on Indian reservations. We urge the Senate to provide the full amount requested for Interior's component of the Government-wide Native American Programs Initiative.

While the Administration is pleased that the Committee has provided a $143 million increase over the FY 2000 enacted level for the Indian Health Service, we are disappointed that the increase results in a funding level that is still $87 million below the Administration's request, which is another key component of our Native American Programs Initiative. 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. At the Committee funding level, 730 fewer days of inpatient care and 28,600 fewer visits to doctors and dentists would be purchased from the private sector through Contract Health Services than would be purchased under the budget request. The budget request also proposes new initiatives to target major health problems, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dental and mental health. Few, if any, of these initiatives could be supported under the funding level provided by the Committee. We urge the Senate to provide the full amount requested for the Indian Health Service's component of the Native American Programs Initiative.

Forest Service (USDA)

The Administration commends the Committee for approving funding for Forest Service Capital Improvement and Maintenance activities, including road maintenance and improvements, which are an important element of our Clean Water Action Plan. However, the funding levels provided still fail to address adequately many priority maintenance and operational needs identified in the President's budget, including the Forest Service's recreation and tourism initiative. In addition, by not including requested funding for forest planning, the bill would contribute to the backlog of land management plans that have not been updated to incorporate current science and public priorities. In addition, species inventory and monitoring funding would be reduced by 15 percent from the President's budget, a reduction that could undermine the credibility and legal defensibility of key natural resource projects that provide goods and services to the American people. Moreover, cutting Washington Office funding for the planning, species inventory, and monitoring programs in half would severely disrupt internal agency accountability and coordination, leading to less efficient use of resources on the ground.

The Committee bill funds forest products (timber production) at a level of $25 million, or 11 percent, above the request, at the expense of the wildlife and fish management, recreation, and ecosystem planning programs. The Administration urges the Committee to redirect unrequested funds to these high priority programs, and to include funding for survey and management activities necessary for forest products and other ground-disturbing projects. The Administration also urges full funding for the Forest Service's Forest Legacy program so that the agency can work with States and willing private landowners to conserve environmentally important forests threatened by development.

The bill includes land acquisition funding for the Tongass National Forest, in part to fund an anticipated no-cost land transfer from the Forest Service to Craig, Alaska. The Administration believes that Congress should provide general fiscal assistance to this city through direct appropriations, rather than transfer Forest Service lands in an attempt to generate municipal income through timber harvests.

Department of Energy

The Administration is pleased that the Committee has included $36 million to help fulfill our commitment to the Elk Hills fund. We are also pleased by several improvements that the Committee has made relative to the House bill. These include providing roughly $140 million for the successful Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, providing significantly more support for energy efficiency programs, and preserving the existing Energy Conservation and Fossil Energy R&D accounts. The Administration would strongly oppose an amendment that may be offered to reduce funding for PNGV below the level provided by the Committee.

The Committee allowance for Energy Conservation still falls $89 million short of the Administration's request. The level provided would hamper our ability to improve industrial, building, and transportation efficiency and reduce fuel use just as we are experiencing concerns about energy supplies and prices. In addition, low-income home weatherization grants are under-funded and should be increased to the requested level.

Millennium Initiative to Save America's Treasures

The Administration objects to the Committee's 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 Senate 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 NEA has not had a funding increase in eight years. Since 1992, NEA funding has declined by nearly 45 percent, with an even greater decline in purchasing power due to inflation. While the Administration appreciates the support demonstrated by the Committee for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), we strongly urge the Senate to provide the Administration's request for these important cultural agencies. The requested levels will enable NEA to move forward with its Challenge America program, NEH to expand its summer seminar series and Rediscover America initiative, and IMLS to move forward on digitization efforts and expanding after-school programs in museums and on-line access to museums. The Administration believes that there is strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate that would sustain further increases made to these agencies.

Smithsonian and Other Cultural Agencies

The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to provide funding above the House-approved levels for the Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. However, the Committee's funding levels for the Smithsonian and the National Gallery are still below the President's request. 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 Senate to fully fund the President's request for repairs and restoration activities at the Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art. We also urge the Senate to fund the new $1 million District of Columbia Arts and Education Grants Program within the Commission of Fine Arts.

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