Friday, December 28, 2007

US House Approves FY 2008 Budget With National Parks a Winner

The U.S. House of Representatives have given approval to an "Omnibus" appropriations bill for FY 2008 providing funding for nearly $474 billion in domestic spending programs. The Senate began considering this legislation yesterday. The bill will provide an approximate $150 million boost in National Park Service operations budget and an immediate $25 million start-up for the Centennial Challenge Fund.

The FY08 Budget is still not final, as the House and Senate must resolve differences largely relating to funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan war operations. Yet, the likely outcome for the National Park Service is clear and this is an important forward step. The Congress did not include the full increases requested by the President for the National Park Service under the NPS Centennial Initiative, but it did provide for very significant increases. The House-passed funding package, which was the result of informal House-Senate appropriations committee negotiations, provides a total of $2,001,809,000 for national park operations. This budget is $46 million below the House-passed funding level, $43 million above the Senate provision and approximately $55 million below the President's request.

However, the Congress has provided $25 million for the start-up of the Centennial Challenge program and boosted the NPS construction account by some $20 million over the President's request. Also noteworthy is the available funds cover a twelve month period, but nearly three months of that period have already passed with spending at a lower FY07 level. This signifies the full-year increases will actually be available for a nine month period.

The $25,000,000 for the Centennial Challenge program was provided to initiate the new proposed ten-year effort planned to generate at least $2 billion for the renewal of the National Park system for its next century. All funds must be matched on a 50/50 basis. The Appropriations Committees agreed to these funds as interim funding to allow the program to commence in 2008. Funds will be administered under the existing NPS challenge cost share program structure. We were delighted by the encouraging statement in the report by the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate that they "expect that permanent authorization will be enacted during the 110th Congress for the full ten-year program effort." Centennial Challenge Projects are to be selected competitively and are to serve Park Service needs and priorities.

The President is expected to receive and sign the final FY08 funding package before Christmas. Note: FY08 began on October 1, 2007.

What's Next:

Passage of the Omnibus legislation will bring to an end the FY 2008 appropriations cycle. It took longer than expected for Congress to finish their work, due to the veto threats made on most of the 13 appropriations bills. The House and Senate will recess until mid-January at the end of this week. The President is scheduled to give the State of the Union on January 28, 2008 and the FY 2009 budget will be announced in early February. ARC will keep all of its members updated on the progress of this important legislation.

from American Trails, "National Parks and FYO8 Appropriations approved by House", Dec 20, 2007-
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