Yesterday, Congress sent the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (H.R. 244), a bill to fund the government through FY17, to President Trump’s desk. This is a $1.163 trillion spending bill that will keep the government open and funded through September 30, 2017. The bill represents a $14 billion increase in spending compared to FY16 levels. The bill passed the House by a 309-118 vote. The measure passed the Senate by a vote of 79-18.
Earlier this year, the President had proposed an overall 10 percent decrease in non-defense spending, which included an 11.7 percent cut to the Department of Interior (DOI), a 16.3 percent cut to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and a 31.4 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The aforementioned agencies were spared these cuts, setting the stage for a fiscal debate later this year on FY18 funding. NMMA’s government affairs staff will be actively engaged in the FY18 appropriations process as it unfolds on Capitol Hill.
Below are high level summaries of FY17 funding levels for departments and agencies that are of interest to the recreational boating community:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Funding for NOAA is $5.7 billion, which is $90 million below the FY16 level. Overall funding for the Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Research program is $192 million.
The bill provides $63 million for the National Sea Grant College Program, an increase compared to FY16. Language on the importance of coastal and ocean economies is included in the bill and up to $1.5 million is allotted for NOAA to develop a Coastal and Ocean Economy Satellite account within the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is funded at $851 million. John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance grants received the same funding as in FY16.
The bill also provides $500,000 above the President’s request for the Marine Debris Program.
U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)
The President had requested a 12 percent cut for DOI. However, under the FY17 bill, the department is funded at $1.3 billion, which is an increase of $42 million compared to current levels. The agreement includes $1.5 billion for the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, representing an $11 million increase. The National Park Service is funded at $2.9 billion, which is an $81 million increase.
U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA)
The bill for FY17 provides $8.06 billion for EPA, a less than one percent cut compared to FY16. Initially, the President had proposed a 30 percent cut to EPA, which would have had a significant impact on monitoring point and non-point pollution sources in fresh and salt water, Great Lakes Restoration, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration, invasive species and emission levels and standards.
U.S. International Trade Administration (ITA)
The bill includes $495 million for the ITA, a bureau operated under the U.S. Department of Commerce. Although, a $2 million increase, it is $38 million below the President’s request.
Funding in the amount of $18 million was also included for the Small Business Administration (SBA) State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). STEP is an ongoing export initiative that gives matching-fund awards to U.S. states that assist small businesses that want to export.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
The spending bill provides $5.99 billion for USACE, an increase of $535 million from FY16 and $1.3 billion above the President’s request.
The bill is designed to prioritize funding on navigation and flood control to advance public safety, boost U.S. export ability, and create jobs. This funding will help maintain and enhance national and regional waterways that handle commerce with value to the U.S. economy of over $1.7 trillion, annually.
Within the total, the bill stipulates $2.6 billion for navigation projects and studies, including more than $1.2 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for harbor operation and maintenance activities. The bill also includes full use of the anticipated annual revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for construction and rehabilitation of the nation’s inland waterways infrastructure.