The military funding ballooned under the proposed 2008 budget presented by President Bush, warranting cuts in other departments. Hence, the common folk in Colorado are going to find lots of air where there used to be federal funding. That has gassed up Sen. Ken Salazar and he is criticizing cuts to the Dept. of Interior’s budget.According to Salazar, the President’s budget request would:
Eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) stateside grant program;
Cut payments to federal land counties under the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes(PILT) program by 20 percent, which affects 52 Colorado counties;
Sell off $800 million worth of public lands for deficit reduction, including 21,699 acres in Colorado;
Reduce funding for the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) by 17 percent;
Reduce the Department’s budget for wildfire management by $55 million.
Sen. Salazar was critical of these changes.
“I’m perplexed by the budget proposal to eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund stateside grants program. In Colorado, these funds are critical investments in playing fields, trails, and open space protection,” Salazar said in a budget hearing. “I want to say that I am deeply troubled by how this budget affects rural Colorado.”
With nearly one in three acres in Colorado owned by the federal government, the PILT program has helped pay teachers, police neighborhoods and pave roads in 52 counties in Colorado. A 20% decrease in funding would hurt counties such as Rio Blanco, San Miquel, Conejos, Saquache, Grand and Gunnison, according to Salazar.
Even though last year the Senate condemned the selling off of public lands to reduce the deficit, Bush put the proposal back into the 2008 budget. Salazar promised to fight against it again.
Although the drought in the West has not subsided and last year was one of the busiest in fire suppression, the Bush Administration doesn’t think 2008 will be so bad. More than $55 million is being removed from the wildfire management budget. That prompted Salazar to note, “The Administration’s move to cut funding to such an important program defies logic.”
Logical is not a word that’s been used to describe the Bush Administration as the Senators will debate the budget later in the spring.