Writings and observations

When you live in a one-party area, you tend to get just one point of view – from your local officials – on the subjects of the day. Here, an atetmpt to break that mold; we’ll try to do this from time to time: Contrasting views about the same thing from different members of Congress, including the arguments made by each.

Topic today is the budget bill marked up – amended – on Thursday by the House Interior and the Environment Appropriations Subcommittee; the budget covers that subject area.

Idaho Republican Mike Simpson, who chairs the subcommittee, had this to say about it:

The Act provides a responsible level of funding for the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and related agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, by saving $2.1 billion from the current fiscal year’s level and focusing on proven, core programs.

“We are living at a time when the federal government borrows over 40 cents for each dollar that it spends. We are also living at a time of record deficits and debts,” Chairman Simpson said during the subcommittee markup. “This committee is taking meaningful steps to help put our country’s fiscal house in order. While reductions in discretionary spending alone will not erase the deficit, the bill before us this morning is a step forward in that direction.”

The FY12 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act funds agencies under the bill at $27.5 billion, a 12% cut from the President’s budget request. The EPA will see an additional $1.5 billion in cuts from the current level. Between this bill and the FY11 Continuing Resolution passed in April, EPA funding has been reduced by 31 percent during the current calendar year.

“Some naysayers will no doubt try to portray Republicans as not supporting clean water, clean air, and a clean environment, but such assertions are simply untrue,” said Simpson. “The reality is that the EPA has received unprecedented and unsustainable increases in recent years. In an environment of historic budget deficits and reduced spending, it should come as no surprise that the agency that saw the greatest increases will inevitably see the greatest cuts.”

The bill also shifts funding away from unproven programs and government growth and focuses it on agencies’ core missions and programs that have demonstrated value to taxpayers. The Chairman’s mark drastically reduces funding for new land acquisitions but provides adequate funding for priorities like National Park Service operations and resource management. The bill cuts funding for expensive and uncoordinated climate change programs by 22% but enables the government to meet its trust responsibilities to Native American communities.

(Follow the link, and you’ll find some additional points Simpson makes.)

Here is Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer, also a member of the committee, criticizing the budget:

“The Interior-Environment Appropriations bill being marked up in Subcommittee today represents an abdication of responsibility on the part of the federal government. Not only does the bill cut funding for clean air, clean water and protection of public lands, but in numerous areas it actually undermines the role of the federal government in protecting our nation’s environment and public health.

“The devastating cuts to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the National Park Service, EPA’s operating budget, the Interior Department’s oversight budget for offshore oil drilling and more will leave communities around the country struggling to provide services to their citizens and even to comply with federal laws.

“In Oregon, the cuts to public lands funding in this bill could mean missed opportunities to protect special places in the Columbia River Gorge and elsewhere in the state. In many cases, these cuts will also cripple local economies – studies have shown that every $1 billion invested in water infrastructure creates between 20,000-26,000 jobs. This bill cuts almost $1 billion from the SRFs, which help states finance federally mandated upgrades and repairs to water and sewer systems. It will put additional pressure on already tight local budgets as well as potentially increasing water and sewer rates, which would be an extreme hardship in cities like Portland that have already seen water rates skyrocket in recent years.

“The policy riders in this spending bill can only be described as fulfilling special interest wish list. From blocking clean air regulations and oversight of mining to preventing Federal action to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to a new moratorium on listing wildlife under the Endangered Species Act, this bill implements what polluting industries have been asking for. The bill would even allow new hard rock mining around the Grand Canyon.

“If this bill comes to the Floor, I will strongly oppose it and urge my colleagues to do the same.”

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