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Simpson’s Interior Appropriations Bill Approved by Committee

The House Appropriations Committee today marked up the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2012.  Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who chairs the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, put forth a bill that responds to our nation’s fiscal crisis by cutting $2.1 billion from the current fiscal year’s level.  The bill shifts the focus away from efforts to grow government and back on proven, core programs.

“This subcommittee has made very difficult choices in preparing this budget proposal, but at the end of the day, what this Committee is attempting to do is all about reducing spending, creating more certainty in the marketplace, and promoting an economic environment conducive to job growth,” Chairman Simpson said during the markup today.  “If there’s one thing we should have learned from the last Congress, it’s that we can’t spend our way to economic recovery.  That didn’t work.  All it did was make the hole we’re in much deeper.”

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 and 7% below the FY11 enacted level.  To do so, the bill prioritizes funding for agencies’ core missions and programs that have demonstrated value to the taxpayer.  For example:

  • The bill fully funds wildfire suppression at the 10-year average. 
  • The bill also restores funding to core science programs at the US Geological Survey, rejecting the administration’s proposal to transfer new, unfunded programs to the agency. 
  • The bill includes increased funding for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to hire new inspectors and move forward with offshore oil and gas permitting while also improving safety. 
  • The bill also ensures that land management agencies like the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Park Service have adequate funding for achieving land management goals, including ensuring that our national parks remain operational and fully staffed.

While the bill aims to provide adequate funding for fundamental programs, it makes deep cuts in programs that have received unsustainable funding increases in recent years and dramatically reduces funding intended to grow government.  The EPA, which received a $1.6 billion cut in FY11, is cut by an additional $1.5 billion.  Taken together, funding for the EPA has been reduced by nearly a third during the current calendar year.

“I recognize that the agencies funded under this bill are of keen interest to Idahoans, who live in a state where the federal government owns nearly two-thirds of the land, and I recognize that these cuts will be felt by many, even those who recognize that we need to rein in spending,” said Simpson.  “The reality is that getting our economy back on track requires us to make difficult and sometimes unpopular choices.  With this bill, we’ve shown that we are willing to do what it takes to make our nation healthy again.”

The FY12 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act passed committee and it will be considered on the House floor in the coming weeks.