Thursday, April 21, 2011

Targeted programs, some rural, survive federal budget cuts again as others are chopped

Four often-targeted federal programs with rural connections again survived the budget ax. "In recent years, leaders in both parties — including, in some cases, presidents from both parties — have singled out four programs, worth a total of about $337 million, to either be eliminated or lose millions in funding," David A. Fahrenthold of The Washington Post reports. "But they have survived, again and again, thanks to powerful lobbies or high-placed patrons in Congress."

A program that sends millions to states that have already finished cleaning their abandoned mines escaped the federal spending debate unscathed, despite President Obama's attempt to cut it in 2009. And the program that pays cotton and peanut farmers to store their bales and bushels in warehouses was also unchanged by the compromise, regardless of issues raised by Obama and predecessor George W. Bush.

The Agriculture Department's Market Access Program that costs about $200 million a year and pays to promote U.S. agricultural products in foreign markets was also spared from budget cuts. President Obama proposed cutting the Honolulu-based East-West Center's budget from $21 million to $12 million, but that went nowhere due to the project's strong support from Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Some previous "budget immortals" did face cuts this year. Congress cut $42 million from the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program, $10 million from the National Drug Intelligence Center and more than half the federal funds from the Denali Commission, an Alaska development program. "All three programs share one trait," Fahrenthold writes. "Their champions in Congress — [Robert] Byrd, [John] Murtha and [Ted] Stevens — all recently died." (Read more)

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