The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 10, 2013

Ag, education cuts, energy boosted: Agency by agency guide to Obama's 2014 budget

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

___

Agency: Interior

Total Spending: $12 billion

Percentage Change from 2013: 2.7 percent decrease

Discretionary Spending: $11.7 billion

Mandatory Spending: $297 million

Highlights: Obama's budget plan cuts overall spending for Interior the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decried mandatory budget cuts for the current year that he said have left the department "in a ditch."

Budget cuts already imposed have forced the closing of visitor centers at national parks across the country and have forced furloughs for thousands of employees, including U.S. park police, Salazar said. Hundreds of park police officers face 14 unpaid furlough days between now and Sept. 30, Salazar said, and the department has canceled a training class for recruits. In addition, as many as 7,000 young people will not be hired by parks this summer as planned.

Obama's budget proposal "takes us out of the ditch," Salazar told reporters Wednesday, but would cut overall spending.

The budget requests $600 million for land and water conservation and for the first time would permanently authorize annual mandatory spending for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a joint program with Agriculture that protects parks, wildlife refuges, forests, rivers, trails, battlefields, historic and cultural sites.

The budget again floats new fees for the oil and gas industry to pay for the processing of permits and would impose fees on leased parcels where no production is occurring. Officials say the fees would save an estimated $250 million a year and expedite drilling on public lands, but the ideas have made little headway in Congress.

The budget includes $240 million for the agency that oversees offshore drilling, a 10 percent increase over current spending. Officials say the increase would enable the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to improve its response to oil spills, allow for more safety inspections and improve investigations and enforcement.

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