July 13, 2016 | Issue Brief on Budget and Spending
This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. This will be the sixth discretionary spending bill considered by the House this year. The bill would provide $32.1 billion in discretionary budget authority for fiscal year (FY) 2017, about $64 million less than current levels.
The bill primarily provides funding for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It also includes funding for Indian Health Services (Department of Health and Human Services); the Forest Service (Department of Agriculture); and various other independent agencies such as the Smithsonian Institution and the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities.
A number of programs in the bill should no longer receive federal funding. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), for instance, should be funded privately and not receive funding from federal or state governments. Although the bill fails to cut some wasteful non-core government programs, there are important policy riders, including reversal of a number of harmful EPA regulations.
In February, The Heritage Foundation published A Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017, which includes an analysis of the entire budget with recommendations for the programs included in this bill. The following should be considered for elimination:
Below are additional programs that have functions that should be considered for privatization or devolved back to the states:
The bill would influence policy in a number of important ways. Many sections of the bill would prohibit implementation of problematic federal regulations that would have an adverse effect on the economy and individual liberty.
The House Interior and Environment appropriations bill contains key policy provisions to stop excessive and unnecessary regulations, but it does not go nearly far enough in reducing ineffective, duplicative, and burdensome federal programs. The bill continues to provide funding for programs outside the core responsibilities of the federal government such as the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. Funding for the arts should not be done at the federal level, and conservatives have championed efforts to defund these programs or to allow them to receive private funding. With the debt level continuing to skyrocket, Congress should use the Interior and Environment bill to cut government waste and focus on essential priorities.—Justin Bogie is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, of the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity, at The Heritage Foundation. Diane Katz is Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy in the Roe Institute. Nicolas D. Loris is Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy in the Roe Institute.
 The Heritage Foundation, A Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017, February 23, 2016, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2016/02/a-blueprint-for-balance-a-federal-budget-for-2017.
 The Heritage Foundation, “Lands and Wildlife,” in Environmental Policy Guide: 167 Recommendations for Environmental Policy Reform, 2015, http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2015/pdf/04_Environmental_Policy_Guide_Lands_and_Wildlife.pdf, and Katie Tubb and Nicolas D. Loris, “The Federal Lands Freedom Act: Empowering States to Control Their Own Energy Futures,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2992, February 18, 2015, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/02/the-federal-lands-freedom-act-empowering-states-to-control-their-own-energy-futures.
 Daren Bakst, “Eliminating and Reducing Regulatory Obstacles in Agriculture,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 3135, June 28, 2016, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2016/06/eliminating-and-reducing-regulatory-obstacles-in-agriculture.
 “Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States,’” Federal Register, Vol. 80, No. 124 (June 29, 2015), pp. 37054–37127, https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015–06/documents/epa-hq-ow-2011–0880–20862.pdf (accessed July 11, 2016).
 Daren Bakst, “What You Need to Know About the EPA/Corps Water Rule: It’s a Power Grab and an Attack on Property Rights,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 3012, April 29, 2015, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/04/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-epacorps-water-rule-its-a-power-grab-and-an-attack-on-property-rights.
 U.S. House of Representatives, Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Oversight Hearing on “State Perspectives on the Status of Cooperating Agencies for the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule,” May 20, 2015, http://naturalresources.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=398500 (accessed July 11, 2016).
 Laura Barron-Lopez, “GOP Omnibus Rider Keeps Administration from Tightening Mining Rule,” The Hill, January 16, 2014, http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/195621-gop-rider-in-omnibus-bill-would-tighten-rules-on-waste (accessed July 11, 2016).
 Claudia Copeland, “Controversies over Redefining ‘Fill Material’ Under the Clean Water Act,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, August 21, 2013, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31411.pdf (accessed July 11, 2016).
 Kevin D. Dayaratna and David W. Kreutzer, “Unfounded FUND: Yet Another EPA Model Not Ready for the Big Game,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2897, April 29, 2014, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/04/unfounded-fund-yet-another-epa-model-not-ready-for-the-big-game.