Budget deal: What got spared, what gets cut

  • Published on April 12th, 2011

The deal – to cut a total of $39 billion – was announced Friday, but those devlish details had to be worked out. Negotiators worked nonstop through the weekend and late into the night last night, and released the plan this morning (PDF).

On the environmental front this budget is much better than it could have been, with reprieves for many programs the Republican plan would have axed.

But there’s still a lot of pain.

Getting the axe:

  • $1.6 billion from the Environmental protection agency (about half what conservatives wanted)
  • $1 billion from grants to local governments for clean water projects (GOP wanted almost $2 billion)
  • $1.5 billion from high-speed rail, plus cuts of $400 million in previous funding
  • $407 million from renewable energy programs
  • $390 million from low-income heating subsidies
  • $578 million from the Army Corps of Engineers (including flood control and inland waterways projects)
  • The position of White House Advisor on climate change is defunded (Carol Browner resigned in January and will not be replaced)
  • There will be no Climate Service established at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administraiton (NOAA)
  • Gray wolves are delisted under the Endangered Species Act in the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Utah (see yesterday’s article)
  • The bill also includes a limitation on the use of funds to implement the Bureau of Land Management’s “Wild Lands” policy


  • The Agriculture Department’s food inspection program gets off with just a 1% cut (GOP wanted 10%)
  • Science and ARPA-E get a $161 increase (instead of a $1 billion cut)
  • The Land and Water Conservation fund only gets cut by 1/3(GOP wanted 90%)
  • Loan guarantees for renewable energy projects (Department of Energy)
  • Riders to restrict the EPA from enacting climate change regulations were dropped
  • A rider on Mountaintop Removal coal mining was also dropped

Sleight of hand:

Deficit hawks such as Mike Pence (R-IN) and Michelle Bachman (R-MN) are threatening to vote “no” on their own budget bill, annoyed that a big chunk of the savings come from what they are calling “accounting tricks”.

The Associated Press reports these include:

“… cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income families.”

Expect a big push from the Tea Party to get the faithful to withhold their votes.

“We pay anywhere between $3.5 billion to $5 billion per day in interest alone on our debt,” Dallas Tea Party leader Lorie Medina told The Washington Times. “With our country in such dire economic peril, I’m not interested in window-dressing budget cuts that will get grass-roots America off lawmakers’ backs for another day. Yes, the GOP wouldn’t have gotten the $38 billion without the pressure from the tea party. But, quite frankly, it’s a pathetic amount.”

But a lot more analysts say the Republicans pretty much won this round, mostly by setting the bar so high to begin with – demanding $100 billion in tax cuts and holding the EPA and Planned Parenthood hostage. Even with the tricky numbers, the bill Obama and the Democrats agreed to today has MORE cuts than the GOP bill they spurned in February as “too Draconian”.

More on the budget battle and the environment:

(Capital Building photo AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Sarah Price Photography)

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.


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