Simpson includes provisions to reauthorize PILT funding, renew grazing permits, delay listing of sage-grouse and prevent EPA from expanding jurisdiction of navigable waters
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today brought his FY14 appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, the EPA, and related agencies before the subcommittee. Simpson chairs the subcommittee, which oversees the budget for agencies under its jurisdiction. The FY14 appropriations bill reflects current budgetary challenges by reducing funding by over $5 billion overall.
On releasing the budget, Simpson noted that the difficult budget environment required making difficult decisions. “During our oversight hearings this year, we’ve stressed the need to separate the critical ‘must-do’ priorities from those that are nice or even very important,” said Simpson. “This means we’ve reduced and even terminated some programs that are popular with both Members of Congress and the American people in order to provide critical funding to fight and prevent wildfires, make sure our national parks stay open, and address human health, public safety, and treaty obligations and responsibilities.”
The FY14 Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee mark funds programs under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction at $24.3 billion, which is a cut of $5.5 billion from the current fiscal year. This means that the bill has seen a 25% reduction since FY10 under Simpson’s chairmanship.
Simpson’s bill focuses its limited resources on critical priorities like wildfire funding. The bill fully funds wildfire suppression accounts at the 10-year average and provides additional funding to prevent fire borrowing this year. It also provides funding for the Forest Service to acquire two next generation aircraft to fight fires, since the current fleet is nearing the end of its useful life. Recognizing the value and cost effectiveness of preventing wildfires versus fighting them, the bill also increases funding for hazardous fuels removal.
The bill includes a number of other provisions, including:
- A one-year extensive of mandatory authorization for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates local governments for the loss of income due to the presence of federal land;
- Permanent extension of language that allows agencies to renew grazing permits while environmental work is completed;
- Language delaying the decision whether to list the sage-grouse as an endangered species for one year to enable states and federal agencies to complete work on sage-grouse management plans;
- Language preventing the EPA from expanding its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
During the markup, Simpson responded to criticisms of the bill by reminding subcommittee members about the very real fiscal challenges our nation faces. “One thing I didn’t hear in all of the comments that were made [from the other side of the aisle] is the fact that we are $17 trillion in debt. $17 trillion. Now, if you want to talk about leaving a legacy for future generations, let that continue to grow and grow and grow and not have the courage to do anything about it,” Simpson said. “We are not doing anything different [in this bill] than state legislatures have been doing for about the last four or five years in trying to address their budget problems. They’ve made tough and ugly decisions all across the board, but we act here like because we’ve got a printing press we are exempt from making those tough decisions. We’re not exempt; we’re $17 trillion in debt.”
To watch Congressman Simpson’s statement from the subcommittee markup, visit his YouTube website. The full Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the bill next week.