Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Senate to Debate Continuing Resolution Today After Democrat and Republican Appropriators Strike Deal

As expected, Senate appropriators last night introduced their spending plan to fund the federal government from March 27 through the end of the 2013 fiscal year in September, by amending a version passed by the House last week (H R 933).  In the process, the bill's authors say that they have provided more federal agencies added spending flexibility in setting their budgets under the terms of sequestration by altering the base from which the cuts are made.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said yesterday that he would allow senators to offer amendments to the legislation when they consider the spending package today in the full Senate (viewers can see a Senate floor webcast here).

The Senate amendment adds three new complete appropriations bills (Agriculture; Commerce, Justice and Science; and Homeland Security) to the Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bills that were already included in the House version.  The other agencies not covered by those portions of the package, including the U.S. EPA and the Department of Interior, would be subject to a continuation of fiscal year 2012 spending levels, although the Senate bill makes further adjustments to those amounts by way of what it calls "anomalies."

From the standpoint of the Mississippi River Basin and some of the key budget line items of particular relevance to water resource issues, the Senate package would provide for the following (click links to view and download the relevant section of the Senate package).

Overall discretionary spending for fiscal year 2013 would total $20.532 billion for Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration programs.  This total includes an across-the-board cut of 2.513 percent for non-security programs and an across the board cut of 0.092 percent for security programs under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Appropriation Subcommittee.  According to the Senate summary, of particular relevance to Mississippi River Basin stakeholders, this portion of the bill provides:
  • $824 million for activities for the Natural Resources Conservation Service;
  • $1.205 billion for the National Institute on Food and Agriculture (including Agriculture and Food Research Initiative funding at $290 million);
  • $1.074 billion for the Agricultural Research Service;
  • $2.219 billion in budget authority for Rural Development, maintaining many loans and grants essential to small and remote rural communities;
  • More than $1.5 billion for the water and waste water loan and grant program, and 
  • $2.2 billion in loans for "essential community facilities."
Overall discretionary spending provisions of note for agencies under the jurisdiction of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriation Subcommittee for fiscal year 2013 would total $50.21 billion, including $5 billion for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and $7.25 billion for National Science Foundation (NSF).  The NSF funding represents an increase of $221 million above the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.
Overall discretionary spending for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2013 would total $39.609 billion under the Senate measure, and would include $10.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Included in that FEMA amount is $7 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund which, based on the appropriators' estimates, "will support an average disaster year and the costs of recovery from previous major disasters."  The bill prohibits the implementation of the newly proposed National Preparedness Grant Program and encourages FEMA "to work with stakeholders to refine a proposal for the proper committees of jurisdiction."  The bill also provides $95 million for Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis, and $25 million for Predisaster Mitigation Grants (The latter program provides funds to states, territories, tribal governments, communities and universities for hazard mitigation planning and the implementation of mitigation projects prior to a disaster event - mitigation activities designed to reduce disaster losses, and protect life and property from future disaster damages.).

Other Budget Items of Note and Anamolies
Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies section of the Senate measure (found here) reduces the Army Corps of Engineers construction funding by $20 million

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies section of the Senate measure (found here)
  • Provides $1.21 billion for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Management programs;
  • Provides $19.1 million for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Construction programs;
  • Continues an annual $30 million rescission of contract authority provided from the Land and Water Conservation funds (a rescission is the cancellation of budget authority previously provided by Congress);
  • Subjects the Department of Interior's funding to a $7.5 million rescission;
  • EPA funding would face a $50 million rescission. Overall the bill provides the following amounts for Environmental Protection Agency accounts:
    • $785.3 million for Science and Technology programs
    • $2.65 billion for Environmental Programs and Management operations
    • $1.18 billion for Hazardous Substance Superfund programs; and
    • $3.58 billion for State and Tribal Assistance Grants.

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