President Clinton and Vice President Gore reached an agreement with congressional leaders to balance the budget for the first time in a generation while protecting critical investments like environmental protection, education and health care.
The budget function that includes most environment and natural resource programs, Function 300, is protected at the level in the President's Fiscal Year 1998 budget request for the next five years. In addition, the agreement specifically protects the following priority programs:
EPA Enforcement and Public Health Safeguards. The agreement provides for the President's request for the EPA operating program, a 9 percent increase to $3.4 billion in 1998. This account funds:Toxic Waste Cleanups. The agreement sets aside the money for the President's request for the Superfund program, which proposes to clean up 500 additional sites by the end of the year 2000 -- a 50 percent increase to $2.1 billion for 1998. The agreement notes that there remain policy differences that must be worked out before the increased funds are available.
- Better EPA enforcement against those who violate our environmental and public health laws, including more resources to train state and local law enforcement officials.
- New standards protect families by ensuring safe drinking water and guarding against pesticides in food.
- New efforts to expand community right-to-know programs that provide people information about toxic threats to their families.National Parks. The Clinton-Gore Administration has made national parks a national priority again, and the agreement provides for the President's request for National Park Service operations. This is a 6 percent increase to $1.2 billion for 1998 and a 17 percent increase from the year President Clinton took office.
- The agreement also provides for $1 billion in new mandatory spending over five years for a new "Environmental Reserve Fund" for "orphan shares" at Superfund sites -- where parties have little or no ability to pay for cleanup, to be available when Superfund is reauthorized.
- The Clinton Administration cleaned up 274 sites in its first term -- compared to only 155 cleaned up by previous administrations in 12 years -- but 10 million children under the age of 12 still live within four miles of a toxic waste dump.
Everglades. The agreement provides the funding for the President's request for Everglades restoration, a 135 percent increase to almost $300 million for 1998. The agreement specifically protects the largest portions of the Everglades restoration program at the National Park Service and the Army Corps of Engineers, for a total of $238 million in 1998. This increase will implement the President's Everglades program signed into law last year -- the most ambitious environmental restoration ever.
Brownfields Cleanup and Redevelopment. Republican leaders will seek to include in the tax legislation the President's legislative proposal for brownfields, which includes a $2 billion brownfields tax incentive, to help communities clean up and redevelop contaminated areas -- protecting public health and creating jobs. The agreement also boosts funding by $50 million in 1998 to provide grants to communities for site assessment and development planning and to leverage state, local, and private funds to foster redevelopment. (This money is included in the Superfund account.)
Land Acquisition. The agreement provides for an additional $700 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for priority federal land acquisitions and exchanges. The earliest spending from this, in 1998 and 1999, is targeted "to finalize priority federal land exhanges."