WASHINGTON -- Officials from the Obama administration are taking their case against proposed deep budget cuts advancing in Congress to the public, warning that they would hurt the economy and inhibit the government’s ability to enforce popular laws.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on Monday described some of the proposed cuts to conservation programs as irrational. She said through land leases, fees and other receipts, her department brings in more revenue than it spends each year and the changes proposed by Republicans in the House could upend that.
“The Department of the Interior is an outstanding investment to the American taxpayer,” she said in a call with reporters. “Interior is one of the few agencies that generates more than it spends.”
The GOP plans, she said, would reduce the department’s funding back to the level it was at in 2002. “These reductions are short sighted and could have immeasurable economic consequences,” she said.
The Republican proposal has been approved by a congressional subcommittee. It is widely expected to be blunted in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. The divide between the houses is so deep that another protracted fiscal standoff seems likely.
Jewell made her remarks as the department released its economic report for last year. In the report, Interior claims to have contributed $371 billion in economic activity and supported 2.3 million jobs.
The secretary then went through several popular programs she said would be endangered by the budget actions advancing in the House, including funding for offshore energy development and safety programs, renewable power, and clean water research. The measure, she said, would eliminate funding altogether for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides matching grants to states and local governments to acquire new parks.
“We can measure the cost of these proposed cuts in very real terms,” she said. “We are talking about lost jobs and lost opportunities.”