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Pallone: President Bush's Budget Doesn't Live Up to Promises of Ocean Commission Report

Location: Washington, DC


U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans, offered the following statement this afternoon at an oversight hearing concerning the Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 Budget requests of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

March 10, 2005

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My opening remarks at last year's budget oversight hearing expressed serious concerns about what was a disturbing trend in the Bush administration's priorities-the apparent low priority given to the budgets of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Regrettably, I find next to nothing in this year's budget requests for either agency to indicate a reversal in that trend. If anything, the situation has gotten worse. In reference to this subcommittee, the administration's policies hurt fish and wildlife resources the most. The budget impacts thousands of New Jersey fishermen and the related businesses that form such a large part of my home state's economy.

"As far as the budget for the Fish and Wildlife Service, the continued misuse of Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) dollars to support unauthorized Administration initiatives siphons funds away from the legitimate uses of those resources - especially State land acquisition to enhance conservation on the local level. Coming from New Jersey, a state with very little open space, I am keenly aware of the importance of land acquisition efforts, and I want to particularly criticize the zeroing out of funding for LWCF stateside matching grants.

"I am also mystified that only two years after this Administration released a national strategy to put the 'fish' back in the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Service's 2006 Fisheries Program budget request contains across the board cuts for all program accounts except one. I hope that Director Williams can explain the reasoning behind this decision.

"But as much as I am disappointed with the Fish and Wildlife Service's request, I am even more dissatisfied with NOAA's fiscal year 2006 budget. Coming on the heels of last year's release of the final report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, which called for significant new investments to implement changes in our system of ocean governance, I was optimistic that the Administration might recognize this report as a golden opportunity to recast its tarnished image by championing our oceans.

"Yet the President's regressive budget, which includes close to $400 million in cuts to NOAA's ocean, coastal and fisheries programs, entirely fails to meet that challenge. It represents nothing but an abdication of responsibility by this Administration and is nothing but an insult to the hard-working, dedicated professionals at NOAA.

"Just think about this: for what it costs to fight the war in Iraq for just 9 days, this Administration could have fully funded the Oceans Commission's first year recommendations and thus begun the process of restoring our coastal waters, beaches and fisheries.

"For that matter, had they been willing to give up a mere 4 percent of the $80 billion in tax cuts given to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, the Administration could have funded the full recommended second-year costs projected by the President's own appointed Commission.

"Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you and the other members of our subcommittee to address the many deficiencies in these budget requests. Thank you."

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