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The Planet
May 1999 Volume 6, Number 4

Budget Battle Begins Again

Once again, Congressional leaders are using the budget process to attack environmental programs.

Before getting embroiled in the Clinton impeachment last fall, members of the 105th Congress passed the 13 appropriations bills necessary to keep the government running for another year. During that process, dozens of anti-environmental riders were attached to these unrelated spending bills. In most cases, an outraged citizenry managed to deep-six the riders, but some were signed into law.

Now members of the 106th Congress are following in their predecessors' footsteps and using the budget process once again to attack environmental programs. The first appropriations bill of the new Congress - the supplemental appropriation for 1999 - has already collected three anti-environmental riders. And the House and Senate passed budget resolutions on March 25 that could result in slashing environmental spending by up to 10 percent next year, and up to 28 percent by 2004.

"When their actions counted most," said Club Executive Director Carl Pope, "a majority of our Congress members failed to protect our air, water, climate, parks and wild places." The resolution passed 221-208 in the House and 55-44 in the Senate.

In recent years, aware that popular support for environmental protection is strong, members of Congress have attempted to use the budget process to pass anti-environmental measures. The budget resolution, the first step in the congressional budget process, sets guidelines for divvying up the $1.7 trillion federal budget. Congress has until Oct. 1 to hammer out the specific dollar amounts for the fiscal year 2000 budget. The cuts to environmental programs can be restored in later budget votes - but only if there is public pressure to do so. (Of course, there is also plenty of opportunity to attach anti-environmental riders to these bills.)

The budget resolution includes cuts that could:

-- Stop up to 135 toxic-waste-site cleanups under Superfund - more than 90 percent of the federally planned cleanups.

-- Eliminate funding for the Clean Water Action Plan, needed to clean up the 40 percent of our waters still too polluted for fishing and swimming.

-- Cripple the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to protect the public from pollution.

-- Reduce vital maintenance and repairs in national parks.

-- Impair salmon-restoration efforts in the Pacific Northwest.

The budget resolution also excludes funding for the Lands Legacy Initiative and key portions of the Livable Communities Initiative. These proposals, announced by the Clinton administration earlier this year, would increase the protection of irreplaceable wild places as well as farmland, and help slow urban sprawl.

To take action: Thank your senators and representative if they voted no on the budget resolution. If they voted yes, tell them you're disappointed and exhort them to vote for environmental protection in upcoming spending bills. To find out how they voted, click here .

Go on to the next article, "Big-Pig Strategy A Mixed Bag."

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