On February 5, President Bush formally unveiled his proposed, $2.9 trillion budget for Fiscal Year 2008. Meanwhile, Congress is still putting the final touches on FY 2007 spending – a task left over from the 109th Congress. The House has passed an omnibus continuing resolution, H.J. Res 20, which sets funding levels through the end of the current fiscal year. The Senate is expected to pass the measure shortly.
The budget plan proposed by President Bush outlines cuts for most non-defense, non-homeland security domestic discretionary spending. It is particularly bleak for most infrastructure and community development programs. Sharp cuts are proposed for many key programs, including public transit, Community Development Block Grants, and water infrastructure funds. Cuts to core EPA programs place the federal government’s only dedicated smart growth program in serious jeopardy.
The President’s proposed budget is especially disappointing for the metropolitan areas where most Americans live, and rural lands and areas in need of conservation fare only slightly better. For example, it would slash funding for communities planning new transit projects, drastically cut support for Community Development Block Grants, and defund support for the HOPE VI program, which has successfully redeveloped decaying housing projects into new, mixed-income communities. It would also defund several important conversation programs, including the Grasslands Reserve Program, the Wildlife Habitat Program, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and once again proposes opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
The budget does propose to increase a few programs, however, including the HOME program (affordable housing and homeownership programs) and the Wetlands Reserve Program.
But overall, the President’s proposals amounts to a drastic reduction in the administration’s support for smart growth. These reductions do not reflect the will of American voters, whose demand for sensible development has grown in every corner of the nation. They are also at odds with the Administration’s own rhetoric. In his keynote speech at Thursday’s New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Los Angeles, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson stated that “President Bush and EPA see smart growth as smart for our environment, smart for our economy and smart for our quality-of-life. And I’m committed to supporting communities like you that want to provide their residents the environmental, economic, and social benefits smart growth can bring….Through EPA’s smart growth program, we have identified a constructive, collaborative role for the federal government—a commitment to removing unintended obstacles and providing communities with new tools and resources.” (link to Johnson’s speech)
Smart Growth America will work with decision makers and coalition members to ensure that the federal government makes good on its commitment to smarter growth.