Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Obama Administration's 2016 Budget Plan and Mississippi River Basin Water Resources

On February 2, the Obama Administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the President's fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget plan. A variety of relevant Federal agencies, departments or programs are highlighted below, along with an overview of some of the budget plan's significant provisions as they relate to the Mississippi River Basin. Links are provided to each agency's budget summary and to the respective OMB budget appendix, where much more detail can be found.

The FY 2016 proposed budget would cost $3.99 trillion, and includes a $474 billion budget deficit. The President's proposal seeks to do away with across-the-board Federal spending cuts that are automatically scheduled under provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Known as "sequestration," these mandatory cuts kick in if Congress fails to enact a deficit-reduction bill containing at least $1.2 trillion in cuts (which Congress failed to do). The role that those sequestration requirements will have on the budget and spending debate in 2015 should be significant to say the least.

Environmental Protection Agency (Links to EPA "Budget in Brief" (PDF file), EPA Congressional "Budget Justification" (PDF file) and OMB's EPA budget appendix)
  • EPA's overall budget would increase under the proposal for the first time in several years, coming in at 5.8% more than the current FY 2015 funding and over 8% higher than the President requested in his budget last year.
  • The budget would provide $2.8 billion for environmental programs and management, an increase of around $200 million compared with the $2.6 billion appropriated in FY 2015.
  • $2.3 billion are provided for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which help to fund drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements.  This total includes $50 million for technical assistance, training, and other efforts to enhance the planning and financing capacity of communities and states.
  • The budget contains a slight increase for state and tribal assistance grants, proposing almost $3.6 billion to provide states the funding for environmental programs and infrastructure assistance (compared with $3.55 billion last year).
U.S. Department of Agriculture (Links to USDA Budget Summary (PDF), U.S. Forest Service Budget Justification (PDF), and OMB's USDA budget appendix)
  • The budget proposes $25 billion in discretionary funding and $131 billion for mandatory programs for the USDA in FY 2016, a slight increase over the $23.7 billion request in FY 2015, and approximately $800 million more than the FY 2015 funding actually provided to the USDA. 
  • The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation programs (both mandatory and discretionary) would receive $4.45 billion under the budget proposal, which is $362 million more the FY 2015 actual allocation. That total includes $1.031 billion in discretionary funding and $3.417 billion for mandatory NRCS farm bill programs. 
  • The President proposes to cut three million acres from the maximum ten million acres per year eligible under the 2014 Farm Bill for landowners to sign up under the voluntary NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program. That acreage cap reduction is equivalent to a funding cut of $54 million a year. 
  • The budget proposes to cap funding for the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program at $1.35 billion, $300 million less than authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill. The program provides financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices, or activities like conservation planning, that address natural resource concerns. 
  • The Farm Service Agency (known as FSA), which manages the Conservation Reserve Program, would receive nearly $1.632 billion under the budget plan, less than the $1.735 billion the FSA received in FY fiscal 2015. 
  • The Agricultural Research Service would receive close to $1.426 billion for "in-house" research, while the National Institute of Food and Agriculture is budgeted $1.508 billion. 
  • Forest Service budget is proposed at $4.94 billion (a slight decrease from the $5.07 billion in actual FY 2015 Forest Service funding), and includes funding increases for national monuments, logging and landscape restoration. 
  • The budget proposal seeks to cut crop insurance outlays to offset higher projected direct farm-program subsidies.
Army Corps of Engineers (Links to Civil Works Budget Overview (PDF) and OMB's Civil Works budget appendix)
  • The Army Corps would receive $4.73 billion in discretionary funds under the President's plan. Although this is slightly higher than last year's proposed $4.5 billion budget, it is 15 percent lower than the $5.5 billion Congress appropriated to the Corps FY 2015.
  • The proposed Corps' construction budget is $1.72 billion.  The Army Corps is Congressionally limited to starting construction on four new projects each year. For FY 2016, the administration proposes that those projects include an Alaska harbor project, a California flood protection project, a Kentucky flood protection project (Ohio River shoreline at Paducah), and a Minnesota environmental restoration project (Marsh Lake, Minnesota River Authority).
  • One ongoing construction project - the Olmsted Lock and Dam project on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky - would receive $180 million under the proposal.
  • The Army Corps' operations and maintenance budget is reduced to $2.71 billion from $2.9 billion it was allocated in FY 2015.
  • The Army Corps' regulatory budget would see a slight $5 million increase under the FY 2016 budget proposal, to $205 million. The agency's Clean Water Act permitting program is funded under that budget line item.
  • The "Mississippi River and Tributaries" Army Corps projects, would be budgeted $225 million, $77 million less than the FY 2015 actual appropriation.  Those projects, according to the Corps budget summary, involve "ongoing construction, operation and maintenance, and investigation activities, with emphasis on the 1,600 miles of levees and related features on the main stem of the lower Mississippi River and in the Atchafalaya Basin, which reduce the flood risk to a large region."
Some of the Mississippi River Basin project budget line items include the following (note: this is not an inclusive list; to see the full project breakdown, go to this link):

Mississippi River Basin Investigations (Studies)
  • Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration- Mississippi River Hydrology, LA $50,000
  • Illinois River Basin Restoration, IL $400,000
  • Interbasin Control of Great Lakes-Mississippi River Aquatic Nuisance Species, IL, IN, OH, WI $500,000
  • Minnesota River Watershed Study, MN, SD (Minnesota River Authority) $600,000
Mississippi River and Tributaries Construction, Operation and Maintenance, and other items “Remaining Items”)
  • Upper Mississippi River Restoration, IL, IA, MN, MO, WI $19,787,000 (down from $33,170,000 appropriated in FY 2015)
  • Olmsted Locks And Dam, Ohio River, IL, KY $180,000,000
  • Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Recovery, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD $47,127,000
  • Mississippi River Levees (construction) AR, IL, KY, LA, MS, MO, TN $15,909,000
  • Channel improvement (construction) AR, IL, KY, LA, MS, MO, TN $43,231,000
Operation and Maintenance
  • Channel Improvement (operation and maintenance) AR, IL, KY, LA, MS, MO, TN $65,124,000
  • Mississippi River Levees (operation and maintenance) AR, IL, KY, LA, MS, MO, TN $9,175,000
Other Army Corps' proposed budget line items that relate to Mississippi River Basin water resources, but are also highly relevant beyond the River Basin, include:
  • $915 million in income from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, for harbor maintenance, construction, and operations activities;
  • $53 million in income from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for construction and rehabilitation of the nation’s inland waterways infrastructure; and
  • $28 million for the Asian carp dispersal barrier project on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins.
Department of Interior - U.S. Geological Survey and Fish and Wildlife Service (Links to Department of the Interior "Budget in Brief," Fish and Wildlife Service "Budget Justification," USGS Budget Highlights (PDF) and OMB's Department of Interior budget appendix)
  • The President's Department of Interior budget request of $13.2 billion represents a nearly $1 billion (8 percent) increase above FY 2015 spending levels, and includes $530 billion in discretionary spending  - $37 billion over the Federal spending cap under provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (known as sequestration).
  • The budget is premised on more than doubling the funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) - anticipating the full $900 million funding authorized for LWCF ($400 million in discretionary funds and $500 million in mandatory funds).  LWCF is the main Federal program that can be utilized to acquire new lands; preserve private farm, ranch and forest land; and increase urban parks.  Beyond FY 2016, the President's proposal anticipates that Congress would provide all of the $900 million from mandatory funding.
  • The budget proposes to divert more than $3 billion in future offshore oil and gas money (designated under the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act for Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) to fund nationwide land conservation, rural counties, wildlife grants, coastal restoration or other "national priorities."
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Link to NOAA in this Department of Commerce "Budget in Brief")
  • NOAA would receive nearly $6 billion under the President's budget proposal, $500 million more than the FY 2015 NOAA appropriation.
  • The budget requests $50 million for NOAA's regional coastal resilience grants, funding the work of state and local governments to prepare for increased flood risks, sea-level rise and other risks from climate change.  That program's FY 2015 budget is $5 million.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (Links to Department of Homeland Security Budget Fact Sheet and OMB's Department of Homeland Security budget appendix)
  • The budget proposal provides for slightly more than $200 million in pre-disaster mitigation funding "to provide technical assistance and risk-based grant funding to State, local, and tribal governments to reduce the risks associated with disasters. Resources support the development and enhancement of hazard mitigation plans, as well as the implementation of pre-disaster mitigation projects."
  • The budget proposes funding the Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program (known as "Risk MAP") at $279 million (FY 2015 funding provided was $97 million).  RiskMAP supports the mapping and community engagement needs of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
  • $156 million is budgeted for Flood Mitigation Grants; $156 million for Floodplain Management and Flood Mapping; and $26 million for FEMA Flood Mitigation and Flood Insurance Operations.  That total represents about a $31 million increase over FY 2015 spending levels.
  • The National Flood Insurance Fund established under the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 4017) is budgeted at no more than $133,252,000 for operating expenses; $1,123,000,000 for commissions and taxes of agents; and $175,000,000 for flood mitigation actions and for flood mitigation assistance.
What's Next
The release of the Obama administration's budget proposal precipitates a series of House and Senate hearings on the proposal, and (under a legislative term of art known as "regular order") may ultimately result in a series of spending bills (ideally passed before the end of September 2015), which allocate funds for the next fiscal year across the agencies of the Federal government. We provide an overview of what might happen, should the regular order of appropriations be followed, in this overview of the Federal appropriations process.

No comments:

Post a Comment