Washington, DC (March 23, 2007)- Environmentalists today praised the House Budget Committee and its chairman John Spratt (D-SC) for beginning to reverse years of budget cuts to programs that protect the environment and natural resources.
The House Budget Resolution for FY2008, passed late last night by the budget panel, would provide a total appropriated level of $31.4 billion for environment and natural resource programs for FY 2008. This amount is $2.6 billion over the request of President George W. Bush and $1 billion over the final Fiscal Year 2007 levels. The Spratt budget resolution would balance the budget by 2012.
In the Senate, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said the budget resolution passed by his panel today, “with Republican support,” would also balance the budget in five years. “This is a budget that will balance by 2012,” said Conrad. “That is a significant turning point for the country after years of running up massive deficits, and adding dramatically to the debt. This budget will not only balance in 2012, but will stop the growth of the debt as a share of gross domestic product. Spending as a share of gross domestic product will go down. Obviously, we now have to go to conference, and come back and get a conference report adopted, but this is a critically important step,” Conrad said.
The Spratt budget accommodates comprehensive energy legislation promoting renewable energy, moving toward energy independence, increases conservation funding, and rejects administration cuts in environmental programs.
It also provides new funding to assist Gulf communities and rebuild housing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Neither Spratt’s nor Conrad’s version of the budget raises taxes. Instead, they seek to enhance revenues by going after the “tax gap,” the difference between taxes owed and taxes collected, and by cracking down on waste, fraud, and abuse in government programs.
Conrad claims Republican support, but some Senate Republicans are critical of the resolution. By not extending existing tax policies past 2010, Democrats raise taxes by more than $900 billion – the largest tax hike ever,” said Ranking Member Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican. “Assumed revenues from closing the tax gap are grossly overstated and are essentially an illusion; used as a “magic offset.”
The House budget blueprint rejects the president’s cuts to endangered species protection, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, many Farm Bill conservation programs, and other important wildlife, habitat and public lands programs.
The funding provided also would begin to restore the National Wildlife Refuge System, which has been undergoing a restructuring and downsizing in the face of budget shortfalls.
In addition, the resolution includes a deficit-neutral reserve fund that supports an increase of $20 billion over the next five years for reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
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