By Jeff Giles, Great Lakes Echo
A plan from House Republicans to cut $100 billion from the 2011 federal budget would leave the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $225 million.
That’s a 25 percent cut from the $300 million President Obama requested for the program this year and less than half of the $475 million the initiative got in 2010.
“That number is pretty low and now we have to rely on the U.S. Senate to bring it up,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.
“When the budget cutters in Congress think that they’re saving money by cutting a program like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, they’re absolutely wrong,” Skelding said. “This is a program that actually fuels the economy of the region.”
The restoration initiative provides funding to federal agencies, state and local governments, universities and non-profit groups to restore habitat and combat pollution and invasive species in the Great Lakes.
The reduction is part of $2.7 billion in proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency compared to the President’s 2011 request.
The GOP proposed the cuts as part of a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. Failure to pass a resolution by March 4 will result in a government shutdown.
The cuts amount to the largest reduction in discretionary spending in U.S. history and will affect every community in the nation, said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in a statement released Friday.
“These were hard decisions, and I know many people will not be happy with everything we’ve proposed in this package,” Rogers said in the release. “That’s understandable and not unexpected, but I believe these reductions are necessary to show that we are serious about returning our nation to a sustainable financial path.”
Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the GOP plan was an ineffective approach to deficit reduction and targets only a small percentage of federal spending.
“The priorities identified in this proposal for some of the largest cuts – environmental protection, healthcare, energy, science and law enforcement – are essential to the current and future well-being of our economy and communities across the country,” Inouye said in a news release. “Such an approach would knock the legs out from under our nascent economic recovery, kill jobs, and do virtually nothing to address the long-term fiscal crisis facing our country.”
The House will debate the Continuing Resolution this week.
Meanwhile, President Obama on Monday released his budget request for the 2012 fiscal year. The plan would fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $350 million. While that’s more than the $300 million requested for 2011, it falls short of the $475 million standard set in 2010.