This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies
IN A NUTSHELL: Earlier today, the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee provided an $18 million increase for the U.S. Geological Survey, including a $3 million increase for a global seismographic network and full funding for the geologic mapping program. The full Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill with a 3% increase for NSF, much smaller than that provided by the House. The Senate unanimously passed the spending bill that covers most of the Department of Energy. Finally, the news from the House-Senate conference on tax cut legislation is that the House will give up its plan to tax graduate student tuition waivers.
The House and Senate are busily pushing bills forward in an effort to complete as much work as possible on the Fiscal Year 1998 (FY98) budget process before their month-long August recess. This update reports on actions taken this past week, primarily in the Senate. Background and additional information on appropriations and the budget process is available on this web site.
The Senate Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee met this morning to vote on their version of the Interior spending bill. The subcommittee recommended $758.2 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, an amount $12.8 million above the President's request, $18.1 million above FY97 levels, and $2.4 million more than provided by the House. The committee report was still in draft form, and the numbers are not yet final, but the picture is far rosier than might have been expected when the congressional budget process began in February.
Under the Senate bill, the Geologic Division would receive $235.2 million, up $7.5 million from the President's request. Included in that amount is a $3 million increase for the Global Seismographic Network in the U.S. Geological Survey's budget. In contrast, the House had declined the Administration's request for such an increase, instead calling on the Defense Department to fund the program. This issue is discussed in more detail in last week's update (7-11-97) available on the AGI web site. Both the House and Senate bills fully fund the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, denying the Administration's request for a $1.7 million reduction.
The Water Resources Division is funded at $194.9 million, a $0.5 million increase over the President's request. The report ignores the President's plan to reprogram $9 million of Survey funds for the Kalamazoo water quality initiative and instead provides full funding for the Water Resources Research Institutes and other programs that were slated for cuts. The National Mapping Division is funded at $132.8 million, a $1.9 million increase over the request, and the Biological Resources Division is funded at $147.2 million, an increase of $2.2 million over the President's request.
Unlike its House counterpart, the Senate subcommittee provided full funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and for public lands acquisitions. The House had invited a Presidential veto threat by providing only shutdown funds for the NEA and no funds for acquisitions despite their inclusion in the balanced budget agreement.
The full Senate Appropriations Committee marked up and passed the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies bill that funds NSF, NASA, and EPA. With considerably less money ($800 million less) to work with than its House counterpart, the Senate subcommittee has been less generous in funding science programs. Debate on the Senate floor is expected to begin on Friday, July 18.
For NSF, the Committee recommended a total appropriation of $3.377 billion, an amount $10 million more than the request but $110 million below the level recommended by the House. This amount still represents a 3.3% increase over the FY 1997 level.
For Research and Related Activities, the committee is recommending $2.524 billion, $10 million more than the request and a 3.8% increase over FY 1997, but $13 million less than the House number. The amount for existing programs, however, may be even less. Report language accompanying the Senate bill calls for a $40 million plant genome initiative to be supported "consistent with NSF's competitive, merit-based procedures." This earmarked initiative was added by Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Bond (R-MO) and would focus on corn, rice, wheat, and related cereals. Earmarked funding may also be added to the Department of Agriculture's funding bill.
For Education and Human Resources, the committee recommended the requested level of $625 million, which is $7 million below the House level. Within the amount provided, the subcommittee has directed that $6 million be used to support historically black colleges and universities.
The Senate bill funds the Environmental Protection Agency at $6.98 billion, $250 million less than the House level, and $7.65 million less than the President's request. Neither the House nor the Senate approved the President's request for extra money for Superfund. The bill approved $200 million less than was mandated in the balanced budget deal and allocated by the House for operating expenses.
The Senate bill funds NASA overall at the $13.5 billion level requested by the President. The Mission to Planet Earth program would receive $1.42 billion, also the amount in the President's request and a $56 million increase over FY97 levels.
Department of Energy Appropriations
As was the case last year, the Senate moved first on the Energy and Water funding bill, which covers most of the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation. The Senate has passed S.1004, the Energy and Water Appropriations bill by a vote of 99-0. Overall, the bill provides $20.7 billion in spending, a slight increase from last year but $1.9 billion less than the President's request.
The Basic Energy Sciences account was funded at $668 million, the level requested by the President and nearly $20 million more than the FY97 amount of $649 million. This account funds DOE's geoscience research program. The Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste disposal project was funded at $350 million, down from $382 million in FY97 and a request of $380 million.
Tax Cut Legislation
The House and Senate have begun to conference on the two major pieces of balanced budget legislation separate from the appropriations process. The first bill makes changes in mandatory spending, such as entitlements and sales of government property. The conferees began discussions July 11 on the second bill, H.R. 2014, which deals with tax issues.
The Geological Society of America, Society of Economic Geologists, and many other societies have expressed concern over a House-passed provision that would eliminate a tax exemption for graduate student tuition waivers. The National Association of Graduate and Professional Students has reported that House negotiators have made a formal written offer to their Senate counterparts to drop that provision as part of the opening round of tax negotiations on Tuesday. However, no official word has been reported yet. Efforts have been underway in both the House and Senate in support of the tuition waiver tax exemption.
Contributed by Kasey Shewey and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted: July 18, 1997