Budgets in brief for key agencies

Budgets in brief for key agencies

Agriculture Department

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman Monday unveiled a $55.17 billion fiscal 2000 budget for his department, down from $63.4 billion in fiscal 1999. The ag budget proposals include reforming crop insurance to include price-related risk beginning with crop year 2000.

Glickman estimated that the crop insurance program will cost at least $1 billion in addition to the $1.7 billion the government already spends on crop insurance, but the proposal did not include offsets for the additional spending. Glickman told reporters he did not want to earmark offsets for crop insurance because he wants the proposal to be bipartisan, but added he could have included a provision earmarking the use of remaining Freedom to Farm payments to pay for it.

The Agriculture budget also includes a $36 million increase in the food safety budget, $268 million for farmland preservation, and would close several Foreign Agricultural Service promotion offices overseas. The budget is also based on $576 million in proposed user fees-including $504 million in meat, poultry and egg inspection fees which Congress has rejected for at least 15 years, $44 million in Forest Service services and $19 million in fees to administer the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Commerce Department

The bulk of the proposed $2.1 billion increase in the Commerce Department's $7.2 billion fiscal 2000 budget request would pay for the 2000 census. To fund the April 2000 launch of the decennial census, the administration is asking for a census budget increase of more than $1.7 billion, to nearly $3.1 billion in 2000, compared to $1.3 billion in 1999. The census numbers assume a census conducted by statistical sampling, but the administration will have to readjust its request based on last week's Supreme Court ruling that mandates a traditional count for apportionment.

The National Institutes of Standards and Technology would receive $74 million more in funding, including $55 million to help fund new laboratory construction.

Total spending for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would rise $151 million from nearly $2.3 billion in 1999 to $2.5 billion.

NOAA would spend $105 million for President Clinton's Lands Legacy initiative, and would also spend $100 million for salmon preservation in Washington state. The administration is also proposing to spend an additional $27 million to expand trade, with an emphasis in African countries.

Energy Department

The President's requested level of spending on energy projects in fiscal 2000-$17.8 billion-remains roughly on par with current overall spending for these programs, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced Monday.

Proposed spending on energy resources, $2.3 billion-an increase of $213 million over fiscal 1999 levels-would expand research and development partnerships for new generation vehicles and energy efficiency in buildings, and an expansion of wind, solar and biomass energy capabilities.

Richardson also reiterated the DOE's belief that its plan for utility competition could save ratepayers $20 billion a year. On climate change, Richardson said the DOE "will continue [to] ... develop technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions." He also pledged a continued dialogue on the Kyoto Protocol.

On the environmental management side, the proposed budget earmarks $6.5 billion to accelerate cleanup and early closure of the DOE's former nuclear weapons production facilities. On commercial spent fuel disposal, the administration has proposed completing an environmental impact statement for the Yucca Mountain site by 2000, and to determine by 2002 whether the site would serve as a suitable permanent waste repository.

Environmental Protection Agency

The administration's fiscal 2000 budget, as expected, seeks billions of dollars for new programs designed to bolster land conservation, curb urban sprawl and give companies credit for reducing greenhouse gases. But the White House surprised many by dropping a four-year campaign to increase the Superfund budget by $650 million, contingent on Congress reforming the federal cleanup program.

As President Clinton announced in his State of the Union address, the administration has proposed a $1 billion Lands Legacy Initiative to preserve open spaces and a Livable Communities Initiative costing $700 million over five years to fund municipal bonds to curb urban sprawl and promote "smart growth."

The budget requests $2 billion for the Clean Air Partnership Fund, which includes $200 million for a program to credit companies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions before required by law, and a $730 million increase to $1.8 billion in the Climate Change Technology Initiative for research and development spending for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Meanwhile, Clinton proposed to cut the EPA's budget to $7.41 billion from $7.59 billion in fiscal 1999, while increasing the budget for the agency's operating program-which includes most of the agency's research, regulatory and enforcement programs-by 5 percent to $3.68 billion.

Department of Health and Human Services

In the area of health care, the administration's major proposed fiscal 2000 budget initiatives had been unveiled prior to today-amid much fanfare. They include a long-term care initiative anchored by a $1,000 individual tax credit; a proposal to make it easier for the disabled to go back to work and retain Medicare and Medicaid coverage; and a renewal of last year's proposal to extend Medicare coverage on a "buy-in" basis to those 55-64 years of age.

In Medicaid, the budget proposes to restore eligibility to more classes of legal immigrants made ineligible by the 1996 welfare reform bill, and to allow states to extend coverage to former foster children until age 21, rather than 18, to help them better make the transition to independent living.

Public health initiatives include a proposed 55 cents-per-pack hike in the tobacco tax, a renewed call for FDA authority to regulate tobacco products, and a proposal to provide grants to encourage inclusion of "safety net" hospitals and clinics that serve low-income and uninsured individuals in managed care plans and other networks.

On the human services side, the budget includes a $6.8 billion childcare initiative, including tax credits for stay-at-home parents; restoration of SSI and food stamp benefits for legal immigrants made ineligible by the 1996 welfare reform law; and extension of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act to cover employers with 25 or more workers; only those with 50 or more workers are now covered by the law.

Department of Transportation

The Clinton administration proposed to base spending for the FAA and Airport Improvement Program, which builds airport infrastructure, solely from the aviation trust fund and airport user fees-thus eliminating $3.5 billion in general fund expenditures for aviation.

The result is that overall spending on aviation would increase only from $9.7 billion in FY99 to $10.1 billion in FY2000-but would begin spending all the revenues coming into the aviation trust fund, a goal sought by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster, R-Pa. But Shuster wants to retain the $3.5 billion in general fund expenditures for aviation, in addition to spending the $10 billion raised annually for the trust fund from aviation taxes.

The administration proposed to raise the cap that communities can charge for airline passenger facility charges from $3 a ticket to $5 per ticket. The administration would not mandate that the charge be raised, but would leave the option to local communities overseeing airports. Administration officials said they hoped the change would offset their proposed cut in the Airport Improvement Program from $1.7 billion to $1.6 billion.

Meanwhile, the administration Monday proposed to change the formula by which $1.5 billion in unexpected gas tax revenues would be spent on highways and transit.