Two separate federal budget proposals for different years from House Republicans on Friday and the Obama administration on Monday each laid out roughly $100 billion a year in federal spending cuts, but reflect gaping philosophical differences in the process.
Just the examples of how the House GOP and the White House treat energy, the environment, agriculture and food show how difficult it may be for the two sides to come to some middle ground on key spending programs.
Keep in mind that the plan laid out Friday by the House Appropriations Committee was $100 billion in cuts in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. President Obama’s budget proposal was for Fiscal Year 2012, which begins Oct. 1.
When looking at what the president proposed, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., stated it was “long on rhetoric and lean on spending cuts.” Budget cuts must go further, he said.
Rogers’ committee on Friday had proposed cutting $2.76 billion out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget for the current year. The Obama administration countered Monday with plans to cut $1.3 billion out of the EPA budget for next year.
In addressing climate change and greenhouse-gas emissions, the GOP plan would strip all funding from EPA when it comes to implementing emission controls on power plants. The House plan also eliminated $176 million in climate-change research and projects throughout the federal government, including USDA. The White House proposed on Monday to add $46 million for regulatory efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
“We oppose any effort to check EPA’s regulating of greenhouse-gas emissions,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. She added that any delay on regulations would actually be harmful to businesses. “Businesses are waiting right now to make investments,” she said. “We can take common sense steps now based on technology.”
Republicans also pushed to reduce EPA’s ability to implement more intense water quality programs this year in the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA proposed $67.4 million aimed at cleaning up major watersheds, including the Chesapeake Bay. Yet the GOP did target a $75 million cut in an EPA project in the Great Lakes that EPA proposed next year to cut $125 million as well.
Though the GOP’s cuts deal exclusively with budget appropriations, the Obama administration wants to eliminate $4 billion in tax breaks for oil companies next year, which would save more than $43 billion over 10 years. The administration also wants to eliminate $2.6 billion in tax breaks for coal, specifically citing greenhouse-gas emissions.
“Coal subsidies are costly to the American taxpayer and do little to create incentives to boost production or reduce energy prices,” a White House budget document stated. “Removing these subsidies would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and generate $2.6 billion in additional revenue over the next 10 years.”
FOOD AID OR FARM PROGRAMS
In USDA, the House GOP plan proposes cutting $747.2 million from Women, Infants & Children programs, and $782.2 million total out of discretionary food-aid programs. The president’s proposed budget for FY 2012 goes the opposite direction, listing a $52 million spending increase in total discretionary food and nutrition programs. Vilsack noted that the president’s plan fully funds WIC, school lunches and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps.
While Republicans also recommended no cuts to commodity programs, the White House again proposed cutting direct payments, which would generate a savings of $2.5 billion over 10 years if approved.
“Budgets are always difficult,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “They involve a variety of choices. This budget basically tries to deal with all of the realities and choices that I’ve mentioned in a balanced way.”
The Republican budget would cut about $4.8 billion out of USDA’s overall budget this year. The president’s budget for next year would cut the overall discretionary budget about $3.2 billion less than actual spending for 2010 spending levels and about $1.9 billion less than USDA had proposed for 2011.
In USDA’s mandatory spending programs, USDA’s budget would have about $116.4 billion in spending under the proposal, which is $3.6 billion less than proposed to FY 2011, but still $13.4 billion more than actually spent in 2010.
When asked about differences in budget-cutting proposals, Vilsack said, “We’re going to work with our friends in Congress over the course of the next several weeks and several months to try to find out where that proper balance is,” he said.
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