Simpson's I&E Report:
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
9:30 a.m.—The subcommittee will hear testimony from public witnesses. To view the schedule for public witness hearings, please visit the subcommittee’s website here. Witnesses will be posted a in advance of the hearing.
1:00 p.m.—Public witness testimony will continue.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
9:30 a.m.—Public witness testimony will continue.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
9:30 a.m.—Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Dan Ashe is scheduled to testify before the subcommittee on the USFWS FY14 budget request.
A Look Back at the Week:
Simpson Examines Interior Department Budget
On Thursday, Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson hosted outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at a hearing of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss budget issues. Simpson, who chairs the subcommittee, oversees the budget for the Department of the Interior. He asked Salazar to discuss what he sees as challenges going forward for the Department, many of which are deepened by sequestration.
Simpson immediately raised concerns that both the recently-passed Senate continuing resolution and the President’s budget proposal for FY14 fail to adequately address wildfire. The Senate CR struck $97 million for wildfire suppression funding that was included by the House to address widely expected shortfalls in 2013.
“One of the surprising things that happened in the CR is that the Senate decided that we don’t need to fund wildfire suppression,” said Simpson. “That decision will likely lead to additional fire borrowing before the end of the fiscal year, robbing operations accounts even further. And now within this budget you’ve also reduced the hazardous fuels account by $87 million, which means that we are also not addressing the long-term costs of fires.”
Noting that the 2012 fire season was devastating in Idaho and that the 2013 season is projected to be even worse, Simpson added, “There are very real consequences for failing to provide wildfire funding.”
Simpson also talked about the impact sequestration cuts are having on Idaho counties. “Some of the biggest worries I hear from county commissioners in Idaho are about how cuts to PILT [Payment in Lieu of Taxes] and Secure Rural Schools are going to impact their budgets. Most people don’t realize that in some counties, schools would have to shut down if SRS payments went away. These cuts will have very real impacts on Idahoans.”
At the end of the hearing, Chairman Simpson commended Secretary Salazar for working to address western issues during his tenure as Secretary of the Interior. Salazar retires at the end of the week, as incoming Secretary Sally Jewell was confirmed by the U.S. Senate yesterday.
Simpson Examines National Park Service Budget
Congressman Mike Simpson today expressed his deep concern over the impacts of cuts to the National Park Service’s operating budget during a budget hearing with the agency. Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, noted that private funding was required for Yellowstone National Park to open on time this spring, and that gateway communities in Idaho are concerned about impacts to their economies.
Simpson blasted the $22 million reduction to the Park Service’s operating accounts—which comes on top of the five percent across-the-board cut under sequestration—included in the Senate continuing resolution. “It’s no secret that sequestration is having a detrimental effect on a number of Park Service functions,” Simpson said. “It’s for this reason that the House actually proposed in its version of the FY13 Continuing Resolution freezing the Park Service operating accounts—in other words, not making additional cuts beyond sequestration. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as the House would have liked with regard to your budget.”
Simpson asked about the maintenance backlog throughout the Park Service, and the pressure that adding new units may create in a constrained budget environment. He pointed out that he sees no end in sight to the current environment of austere federal budgets, and also questioned how the Park Service is “looking outside the box” in order to create a more stable, long term financial footing for itself.
Simpson is a strong advocate for an all-of-the-above approach to our nation’s fiscal challenges. As such, he has supported reducing spending in discretionary accounts to find billions in savings over the past few years. However, discretionary accounts only make up about one-third of federal spending. The other two-thirds comes from mandatory programs like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. Even if Congress completely eliminated discretionary spending, without reforms to mandatory spending, the nation would still have a budget deficit.
After the hearing, Simpson said, “Our budget situation requires us to make difficult decisions. It will force us to set careful priorities and do more with the limited resources available. We can either continue trying to offer the same services but be less and less effective at them or we can simply decide not to do certain things any more. I am hopeful that we will not have to completely abandon our national parks, which have rightly been called “America’s best idea,” because we fail to take major steps to reform our entitlement programs.”
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