House sets spending levels for 2020 budget

By Laura Bies

Funding for wildlife and parks could increase under spending level recently set by the House. ©USFWS

Top-level funding for programs in the U.S. Department of the Interior and related agencies would see an increase in Fiscal Year 2020 under spending caps approved last week by the House Appropriations Committee. These caps, known as 302(b) discretionary spending allocations, have been set for each of the House’s 12 annual appropriations bills.

Under the House caps, the appropriations bill covering the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Forest Service would see a 4.5% increase in FY 2020, to approximately $37.2 billion.

The administration’s recommendations for the FY 2020 budget would decrease funding for these agencies, in some cases significantly. Newly-confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt testified in front of the House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee for the first time in his new role last week to defend these cuts.

The Secretary also briefly touched on Interior’s reorganization plan during the hearing, supporting many aspects of former Secretary Zinke’s plan to restructure the department, but expressing some concerns about specific aspects of the plan, such as the need for a “unified regional commander” for each region.

The text of the House’s Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill is expected to be released next week. The House Appropriations Committees plans to pass all 12 bills out of the committee by the end of May. Some of the 12 FY 2020 appropriations bills have already been introduced and have passed the full House Appropriations Committee, including those covering Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. In recent years, the appropriations process has been plagued with delays, leading to continuing resolutions, lapses in funding and government shutdowns.

The Senate has not yet released its allocations for its appropriations bills, but they will likely be lower. Ultimately, the House and Senate will need to reach an agreement on funding levels for appropriations bill to be passed.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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