It has been a very busy week on Capitol Hill and we are writing to share some recent developments relative to the LWCF State Assistance Program and to ask for your assistance in helping us to advocate for provisions in the transportation bill.
First, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee marked-up its version of the FY13 appropriations bill, providing a mere $66 million for the LWCF. This is an 80% reduction in funding compared to the amount appropriated to LWCF in FY12. Of the $66 million, the House proposes allocating only $2.8 million to the LWCF State Assistance Program. The FY13 appropriations for LWCF and the LWCF State Assistance Program are similar to the appropriations proposed by the House for FY12.
The NRPA Public Policy team fully anticipated that the House would propose a severe funding reduction for LWCF, and that the State Assistance Program would likely receive little to no money. The writing was on the wall earlier this year when the House passed a Budget Resolution that cut discretionary spending by $15 billion from FY12 levels, requiring each of the appropriations subcommittees to make cuts. The good news is that the FY13 Budget Resolution adopted by the Senate’s appropriations committee actually provides a slight increase in funding from FY12 levels. The import of this is that the Senate is not under the same pressure as the House to cut programmatic funding. This also means that Senate advocacy will be critical again this year as will advocacy during the conferencing of the two bills.
It is important to remember that our current situation mirrors that of last year. However, as you may recall, the final FY12 appropriations bill included approximately $323 million for LWCF with $45 million going to the State Assistance program. Because NRPA members were vigilant in their advocacy, we were able to secure a $5 million increase in funding for the LWCF State Assistance Program when the funding for many other programs was being cut or simply maintained.
The NRPA Public Policy team has been meeting with Senate staff over the past few weeks and will continue to do so in the upcoming weeks. It is unlikely that we will see finalization of an Interior appropriations bill until after the elections. However, we will certainly reach out to NRPA members in key states when the time is right. I also want to say thank you for all of your advocacy efforts. During our Hill meetings, Congressional staffers have repeatedly shared that they are hearing from constituents regarding opposition to the competitive grant program. This certainly helps us when we go to meet with Hill staff, and it is making an impact so keep up the good work!
As Dave mentioned in his update last week, the next few days are going to be determinative as to whether we will see a reauthorization of the surface transportation law this year. House and Senate leaders agreed to meet during the remainder of this week to see if a compromise could be reached that would allow them to pass a bill prior to June 30th, the date the current law will expire. It is unlikely that a compromise will be reached and we will likely see another extension (the 10th such extension to SAFETEA-LU). Of course, the question remains as to the length of that extension.
NRPA members have asked why they should continue to advocate for our issues in the transportation bill when it is uncertain that we will see a transportation bill passed during this session of Congress. If a bill does not pass this Congress the process will start all over in January. However, it is important that we continue our advocacy efforts since we are unlikely to see a significant change in the make-up of Congress and the bill that is currently being negotiated will likely serve as a blueprint should the resolution of the current bill be delayed until after the elections, or even into next year. Should that happen, having our issues included in a 2012 bill will better position us to ensure they are included in a 2013 bill.
For this reason, we are asking you to continue advocating for the inclusion of our issues in the transportation bill and to also continue to encourage your members and colleagues to do the same. Here
is an action that will go out to NRPA members in the next few days. Please feel free to distribute this to your networks. We have also included a copy of the letter
Barbara recently sent to members of the transportation conference.
As always, should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of the members of the Public Policy team.
Stacey L. Pine
Vice-President of Government Affairs
National Recreation and Park Association