Norton to announce BIA budget
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APRIL 9, 2001

Secretary of Interior Gale Norton will announce her department's fiscal year 2002 budget request today but Indian Country can't guarantee on seeing the same historic increases it saw under President Clinton.

Last year, both the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) saw significant budget boosts. For fiscal year 2001, the BIA's budget is $2.1 billion, an increase of 15 percent from the year prior, while the IHS budget is $3.2 billion, a 12 percent increase.

With overall spending cut by President Bush at the Interior by 4 percent, however, the two agencies won't be in the same gracious position this time around. Programs seen as redundant or of questionable merit throughout the Interior will see the cutting floor and money will be shifted among the rest to meet the administration's priorities.

Top on the list of these goals is reducing the repair and maintenance backlog of the nation's Indian schools. For 2001, Congress appropriated almost $300 million to address the problem and Norton today is expected to announce funding to continue the same level of support for 2002.

In total, the Bush administration has pledged $1 billion over the next five years to tribal schools. The BIA will begin by using $136 million to replace seven schools in most need of repair.

Thirteen others are on the BIA's priority list, last updated by former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover before he left office.

Indian Country can also expect funding for recently enacted water and land settlements in California, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, and Utah. The Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Tribe of California finally saw its $14 million settlement over lands submerged by the Salton Sea enacted into law by Clinton in December.

The controversial $450 million Animas-LaPlata dam project, pushed through Congress by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) to settle the water rights of two Ute tribes in Colorado, is also due for funding. Clinton signed the settlement into law in December.

Support for trust reform will also continue under Norton, amid criticism from Congress and the courts that the department isn't doing enough to address the issue. Funding for the Office of Special Trustee (OST) and trust improvement projects throughout the BIA are due for boosts.

A number of other BIA programs could see increases as part of the administration's goal of developing Indian and public lands to meet the nation's energy needs. According to a draft report outlining these goals, the BIA's Office of Education Programs might see a "modest appropriation or redirection of existing program dollars" to help the Interior tap the expertise of universities.

The BIA's Division of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Office of Trust Responsibilities, and the Branch of Forest Resource Planning are also identified as key to the extraction of natural resources from Indian lands.

In a letter to the Senate Budget Committee, Campbell and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively, of the Indian Affairs Committee, last month said they couldn't offer substantial views on Bush's budget blueprint due to its limited scope. The pair called on continued support for all areas of the BIA in light of potential cuts and said the Committee has always advocated for increases, never decreases.

Get the Budget Proposal:
Fiscal Year 2002 Budget (White House Office of Management and Budget March 9, 2001)

Get the Interior Budget Summary:
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR (The White House February 2001)

Get Campbell, Inouye Letter:
Indian Affairs Views and Estimates (To Senators Pete Domenici, Kent Conrad March 14, 2001)

Bush's Energy Goals:
DRAFT: Energy Task Force - Land Management Planning (March 12, 2001)

Relevant Links:
Fiscal Year 2001 Budget, BIA -

Related Stories:
Bush cuts Interior budget (3/1)
Fiscal Year 2002: The Budget Overview (3/1)
Bush pushes tax cut, budget (2/28)
Norton to address Indian affairs (2/28)
Norton outlines Indian Country priorities (2/23)
Norton warns of Interior budget cuts (2/16)
Tribal Schools on Priority List (2/16)
Indian funding signed into law (10/12)