From: Mary Dalrymple, Associated Press
Published May 5, 2005 12:00 AM

House Panel Boosts National Park Spending, Cuts Local Water Projects

WASHINGTON — A House panel cut federal aid for local water projects but boosted money for National Park Service operations in a bill that devotes $26.2 billion to natural resource programs next year.


The House Appropriations subcommittee that controls spending at the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency approved the bill Wednesday, and it's expected to go before the full committee next week.


Together, the natural resources and arts programs controlled by the panel would absorb a 3 percent spending cut from $27 billion this year.


A program that grants money to states, which then loan the funds to local governments for water treatment and sewage programs, was targeted for a $241 million, or 22 percent, reduction.


Democrats said the cut undermines local governments working to comply with standards set by the Clean Water Act.


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"We have come so far in the wrong direction in terms of support back to the local communities, who don't have the money to do these things either," said Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash.


Money to fund day-to-day operations and attack a backlog of maintenance projects at the National Park Service were both increased.


Overall, the park service would see its total budget cut $137 million, the result of decisions to eliminate a $90 million grant program for state parks and virtually halt government land acquisitions.


Democrats said the budget cuts were forced by stringent spending restrictions demanded by President Bush.


"Let's face it. Programs like this are being shredded simply because the budget resolution mandates so many of these cuts in order to pay for high-rollers' tax cuts," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis.


The subcommittee's Republican chairman, Rep. Charles Taylor of North Carolina, told lawmakers to remember where they get money to fund federal programs.


"The tooth fairy doesn't provide the money that we spend," he said. "It's provided by the American taxpayer."


The bill, which hasn't yet been considered in the Senate, would also:


-- Fund national firefighting plans at $2.7 billion, including increases for wildfire suppression and preparedness.


-- Provide the same funding next year for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


-- Increase spending on Indian health and education programs.


Source: Associated Press


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