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U.S. federal budget bill preserves funding for GLRI in FY2017

On May 22 or May 23, the Trump Administration is expected to release its full FY2018 budget proposal for the U.S. federal government. In the budget blueprint for FY2018 that was released on March 16, the Administration proposed (among other things) to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). In addition, in late March, the Office of Management and Budget proposed to reduce funding for GLRI in the current year (FY2017) by $50 million (from $300 million to $250 million). GLRI was authorized by the US Congress in late 2016 at $300 million per year for five years.

The full FY2018 budget proposal expected from the White House next week likely will include significant cuts to GLRI, deep cuts in base level funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other reductions in non-defense discretionary programs. Consistent with the budget blueprint released on March 16, the Trump Administration even may propose to zero out GLRI for FY2018.

Congress may have different priorities. On May 1, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, an omnibus bill that funds the federal government through FY2017 (that is, until September 30). The bill, which the President signed into law on May 5, funds GLRI at $300 million for FY2017 (the same funding as in the FY2016 budget). Congress’ decision to fully fund GLRI for FY2017 suggests that Congress may disagree with the President’s budget priorities pertaining to Great Lakes restoration.

With the passage of the FY2017 omnibus bill, House and Senate budget committees now turn their attention to FY2018. According to press reports, budget committee chairs in both the House and Senate are working to draft resolutions aimed at balancing the federal budget in 10 years, which would require significant revenue growth and/or deep cuts in government programs. The Great Lakes policy community — and CGLI — will continue to work to demonstrate the importance of Great Lakes protection and restoration as budget negotiations commence.

As a side note, the FY2017 omnibus bill included language that supports the release of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) for Asian carp/aquatic invasive species controls at Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, IL. The draft TSP report was scheduled for release in late February, but the Trump Administration delayed the release pending further review by the Administration. In the omnibus budget bill for FY2017, Congress noted that USACE is “expected to release the [Brandon Road TSP report] consistent with the urgency of its previous actions,” directs USACE to adhere to an open and transparent public and agency review process, and requests USACE to provide quarterly updates to Congress on the progress and status of efforts to prevent the further spread of Asian carp.