Politics

Interior Secretary Kempthorne to unveil new budget


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Update:The Bureau of Indian Affairs proposed budget is $2.2 billion, about the same as current levels. The Office of Special Trustee budget is $196 million, an increase of $15 million from current levels.

The budget includes an Safe Indian Communities Initiative "to combat the production and distribution of methamphetamine." The Indian Education Initiative of $15 million "focuses on management of Bureau of Indian Affairs schools by targeting school programs to improve student achievement and address transportation needs."

For more information see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2008/interior.html.

Amid level funding levels and a changed political climate, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is set to roll out his first budget since taking office.

When Kempthorne came on board last May, he promised to chart a fresh course. He immediately met with leaders of the National Congress of American Indians, a sign that tribal leaders hailed as a positive move.

With the release of the fiscal year 2008 budget, Indian Country gets to see if Kempthorne lives up to his pledge in the place where it most matters. "We need to be engaged," said NCAI President Joe Garcia last week in his annual State of Indian Nations address.

During the address, NCAI released its own 2008 budget request. Within the Interior Department, tribes are seeking increases in public safety, education, contract support costs and natural resources.

The Bush administration has touted its efforts in all of those areas though funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs has remained flat recently. For the past two years in a row, the Interior Department sought fewer dollars for the agency charged with serving more 550 tribes and more than 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

With the help of Congress, tribes have been able to counteract those cuts. But the failure of the 109th Congress to pass all of the 2007 appropriations bills currently leaves the BIA at 2006 levels.

Last week, the Democratic-controlled House passed a massive $463.5 billion federal budget that includes nearly $2 billion for the BIA, with $75.4 million set aside for post-secondary education and $42 million for land and water settlement. That represented only a slight increase for the agency.

The overall picture isn't likely to change this year as President Bush unveils a $2.9 trillion budget, according to news reports. Some early released details include $2.4 billion for the National Park Service, which is part of DOI, and an increase in federal aid to students.

The budget will be posted online by the White House Office of Management and Budget later this morning. Kempthorne has scheduled a 1pm press conference in Washington, D.C. to discuss his budget. The documents should be available at http://www.doi.gov/budget by this afternoon.

NCAI Indian Country FY 2008 Budget Request:
Visions for a Safe and Self-Reliant Native America (January 25, 2007)

2007 Funding Resolution:
H.J.Res.20 | Summary | Text [as introduced]

Relevant Links:
Department of the Interior - http://www.doi.gov

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