WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, and Congressman Joe Skeen (R-NM), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture, today criticized President Clinton's FY99 budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), questioning the President's allocation of $573 million in non-existent user fees.
This morning, President Clinton released his USDA budget proposal for fiscal year 1999. The proposal calls for $54.3 billion in total outlays for the USDA - a 1.3% decrease of from fiscal year 1998. 70% of this total - or $38 billion - would fund the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, which administers the food stamp program. The President's budget proposes to spend $573 million from non-existent meat and poultry inspection user fees by assuming Congress will create them, despite Congress' consistent rejection of such fees.
"Meat inspection has historically been a responsibility of the federal government, and that's a fiscal responsibility too. Now, to raise revenue, the President wrongly assumes $573 million in user fees that don't exist and which Congress has routinely and resoundingly rejected. That's disingenuous and unacceptable to both consumers and to livestock producers. The President should propose an honest balanced budget, without unfair user fees and taxes," Smith said.
"As chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture, I have been successful in building a bi-partisan agreement for three funding measures and each of these bills have excluded increases in user fees while still providing increased funding for critical programs such as food safety, agriculture research, and nutritional programs for women, children and the elderly. We have demonstrated our firm commitment to balance the budget while still providing funding for essential services without the need to increase user fees which are a form of a hidden tax that ultimately will be paid for by the consumers. There is no reason to play along with the president's budgetary shell game and join in his political grandstanding," Skeen said.
In his FY99 budget for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the President estimates that his recently-announced road-building moratorium will impact 73 million acres of national forestland. The moratorium would reduce sales from the Forest Service's timber program by 20% or more - at an annual loss to the Forest Service of between $13.4 and $36.8 million.
"The President's new no-roads scheme would bar both the Forest Service and the American public from an Arizona-sized area of our national forests. To satisfy a small group of environmental extremists, this President would prevent the American public from enjoying some of our most precious public property, and would keep the Forest Service from doing it's job," Smith said.
"This year, the Forest Service has asked Congress for more money to do less on-the-ground forest management, despite the Forest Service's own estimate that 40 million acres of our national forests are at an unacceptable risk of catastrophic wildfire," Smith said.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District - which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon - in the U.S. House of Representatives. Skeen represents southern New Mexico's Second Congressional District.