WASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2005 (ENS):
The federal budget plan proposed Monday by President
George W. Bush calls for reduced spending on the environment,
agriculture, education, low-income housing aid, and
The $2.58 trillion spending plan cuts funding for 12
of 23 government agencies, with the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) facing some of the larger cuts.
Bush told reporters Monday the budget is "lean"
and follows the priorities of "winning the war
on terror, protecting our homeland, growing our economy."
The plan contains a 4.8 percent increase in defense
spending and a 1.2 percent increase in spending for
The proposed funding for the Department of Defense
and the Department of Homeland Security totals some
Bush said the proposal would trim the current budget
deficit of $497 billion to $390 billion – some
3.5 percent of gross domestic product – and would
scale back or eliminate 150 federal programs.
"It is a budget that focuses on results,"
Bush said. "Taxpayers in America don't want us
spending their money on something that's not achieving
A slew of the proposed reductions were offered by the
administration – and rejected by Congress –
The overall budget request increases discretionary
federal spending by some 2.1 percent over 2005 appropriations.
White House Office of Management and Budget Director
Josh Bolton said that bar defense, homeland security,
and entitlement programs, the $2.58 trillion spending
plan trims discretionary federal spending by 0.5 percent.
Bolton said the budget proposal represents the first
proposed reduction in spending since the Reagan administration
and puts the nation on track to meet Bush’s promise
to halve the federal deficit by 2009.
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican,
said the proposal "reflects there are tough fiscal
challenges ahead, but challenges that can be overcome
through strong economic policies and spending restraint."
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the budget
proposal is "fiscally irresponsible, morally irresponsible,
and a failure of leadership."
The California Democrat called the plan a "hoax"
because it does not include funds for the war in Iraq
or for the administration’s proposed reform of
Social Security, which could cost billions of dollars.
Administration officials said they would soon submit
a supplemental request for some $81 billion to fund
the U.S. war effort in Iraq.
The plan slashes the budget of the Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD) by 11.5 percent, the Transportation
Department by 6.6 percent, the USDA by 9.6 percent and
the EPA by 5.6 percent.
The cuts at HUD center on housing aid to the poor and
the much of the decrease at the Transportation Departments
comes from a major reduction in subsidies for the Amtrak
The budget decrease in the USDA budget includes cuts
to food stamp payments and farm subsidy payments. Still,
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Monday that
while Food Stamp participation increases by 10 percent
each year, the budget "includes resources to fully
fund estimated Food Stamp participation and also provides
a $3 billion contingency fund should actual costs exceed
the estimated level."
The plan would drop the maximum amount of subsidies
a farmer could receive annually from $360,000 to $250,000,
a move the administration says that could save some
$5.7 billion over the next 10 years.
The budget provides an increase of $7.5 million for
an enhanced mad cow disease research program and funding
for continued testing and implementation of the National
Animal Identification System to help prevent the spread
of the fatal brain wasting disease.
The USDA budget proposal includes $100 million, an
increase of 15 percent over 2005, for food and education
for women and children in need elsewhere in the world,
The annual budget for the U.S. Forest Service, which
falls under USDA, would drop from $4.28 billion to $4.06
billion under the budget request.
The $7.57 billion proposed for the EPA is some $500
million less than the current budget for the agency,
with the bulk of the cuts coming from grants to states
for upgrades to sewage treatment facilities and clean
President Bush is asking Congress to spend just $730
million on the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund
for the 2006 fiscal year, slightly more than half of
what was spent in 2004.
The administration proposed similar cuts last year,
but Congress reinstated the funds.
A coalition of local elected officials, drinking water
and wastewater service providers, state environmental
and health program administrators, labor, engineers
and environmentalists, the Water Infrastructure Network
(WIN), said Monday that Congress should again reject
the Bush administration's proposed cuts to water infrastructure.
Studies by the EPA, the Congressional Budget Office,
the Government Accountability Office and WIN estimate
a water infrastructure funding gap of more than$300
billion over the next 20 years. Given this mounting
funding gap, WIN believes "it is untenable"
for the federal government to cut support for clean
water in America.
American Rivers called on lawmakers to reject the proposed
clean water cuts and increase spending to $3.2 billion.
"The administration continues to turn a blind eye
to the plight of local communities, and putting off
repairs just makes the final bill more expensive,"
said Betsy Otto, director of river advocacy for the
river conservation organization.
Officials said the cut to the EPA budget does not reflect
a lack of commitment to safeguarding the environment.
"The President's budget, coupled with our proven
ability to leverage outcomes through strategic partnerships,
insures we will continue to pick up the pace of protecting
the public and the environment, while fulfilling EPA's
role in homeland security," said EPA Acting Administrator
Johnson touted a $79 million increase for the agency’s
homeland security efforts, a $124 million increase for
the Superfund program as well as a $47 million boost
for brownfields development.
The homeland security boost comes in the form of $44
million to launch a pilot program of monitoring and
surveillance in select cities to provide early warning
of contamination; an increase of $19.4 million for environmental
decontamination research and preparedness, with an additional
$4 million requested for the Safe Buildings research
program; and $11.6 million in new resources to support
preparedness in environmental laboratories.
The $10.8 billion budget for the U.S. Interior Department
is a one percent decrease from 2006 and includes cuts
in funding for the National Park Service and the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Interior budget again calls on Congress to open
the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling,
and estimates the federal government could see some
$1.2 billion in leasing revenues by 2007 if Congress
acts on the matter this year.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton told reporters the increased
Republican majorities in both the House and Senate means
this year appears to offer the "strongest opportunity"
to open the refuge to drilling.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also faces a cut of
7.2 percent under the Bush plan from $4.66 billion in
2005 to $4.3 billion in 2006.
American Rivers likes this part of the budget proposal.
These savings are achieved in part by cutting funding
for "outdated, wasteful, and environmentally destructive
projects in the Mississippi River and Tributaries Program,"
said the conservation group. Other projects that received
zero funding include the "destructive" Grand
Prairie Irrigation Demonstration Project in Arkansas,
and the Dallas Floodway Extension Project in Texas.
The budget prioritizes four restoration projects that,
if properly implemented, will provide environmental
benefits for the nation, American Rivers said. The budget
provides $34 million for Upper Mississippi River Restoration;
$83 million for Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Recovery;
$102 million for Columbia River Fish Recovery; and $137
million for Everglades Restoration.
"If the Missouri River restoration money is spent
on the priorities identified by the basin states and
river stakeholders, it could help improve the ecological
condition of the Missouri River and river's contribution
to the economy of the basin," said Chad Smith,
director of American River's Nebraska Field Office.
The Bush budget would also cut spending at the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the
U.S. Department of Energy.
NOAA’s National Ocean Service is set for a $360
million decrease and NOAA Fisheries is earmarked for
a funding cut of $45 million.
The $23.4 billion proposed for the Energy Department
is a two percent decrease from the current year, but
over $1 billion is budgeted to support the development
of what Bush called "reliable, affordable, and
emissions-free sources of energy, including hydrogen
fuel, clean coal, and cutting-edge nuclear technology."
The Energy Department cuts include a $20 million drop
in funding cuts for energy efficiency.
The Sustainable Energy Coalition says when cuts to
renewable energy programs are added the cuts amount
to nearly $50 million - an overall cut of roughly four
Funds for distributed energy are cut six percent, geothermal
energy is cut by eight percent, energy efficient buildings
are cut by 11 percent, biomass/biofuels cut 18 percent,
industrial energy efficiency cut 24 percent, and hydropower
cut 90 percent.
Increased energy budget proposals favor the hydrogen
program for a five percent increase and the fuel cells
program for a 12 percent increase.
The 85 national and state business, consumer, environmental,
and energy policy organizations of the Sustainable Energy
Coalition call the Bush budget "penny-wise, pound-foolish"
and say it is "bad" for the environment, public
health, homeland and national security, jobs, the economy,
and the development of new basic industries.
"By cutting federal funding for energy efficiency,
the Bush budget takes the wrong approach at the wrong
time," said Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri
Callahan. "Escalating oil, gasoline, and natural
gas prices are putting a stranglehold on business, industry,
and consumers alike and causing disruptive fluctuations
in financial markets. We need increases - not cuts -
for crucial energy-efficiency programs that help the
nation reduce overall energy use and lower costs."
The solar energy industry is happier with its slice
of the budget pie. Funding for solar energy research
was cut by 1.3 percent, but the Bush budget requests
for $4.5 million for a new industry-led Crystalline
Silicon Initiative. This material is used for over 90
percent of worldwide photovoltaic production.
"We appreciate the administration’s continuing
support for solar energy research, especially given
this year’s tight budget situation," said
Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industry
Association (SEIA). "The Administration’s
support for the new Crystalline Silicon Initiative is
proof that our federal government is committed to developing
a high tech U.S. solar industry."
But disadvantaged communities will suffer under the
new Bush budget, according to Mark Pinsky, president
and CEO of the National Community Capital Association.
He said the budget would all but wipe out the Community
Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund by cutting
it to $8 million. These 160 financial institutions invest
in small businesses, quality affordable housing, and
community services that benefit economically disadvantaged
people and communities.
Pinsky is a presidential appointee to the CDFI Fund
Advisory Board in the Department of the Treasury and
also serves as chair of the Federal Reserve Board of
Governors’ Consumer Advisory Council. He said,
"This seems to be part of a deliberate war of the
crumbs strategy under which a variety of interests and
groups would be set at each other’s throats to
battle over an increasingly small amount of funds."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All