As Budget Talks Heat Up, Great Lakes Advocates Urge Public Officials to Hold the Line against Cuts to Restoration Programs
Key Great Lakes programs face mandatory 8.2 percent cuts through “sequestration”
A week after the re-election of President Barack Obama and amidst federal budget negotiations to stave off across-the-board reductions to government programs, Great Lakes advocates are urging the nation’s leaders to hold the line against cuts to successful programs that are restoring the Lakes, the source of drinking water for 30 million people.
“President Obama’s support for Great Lakes programs has been invaluable, and we challenge him to maintain his commitment to the Lakes,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Congressional support has been equally important. Our message to Congress: Do not let up now. Restoration projects are producing results—but there’s more to do. We look forward to working with leaders of both parties to maintain the nation’s commitment to the Great Lakes to protect our drinking water, jobs, public health and way of life.”
Unless the U.S. Congress and Obama Administration forge a budget deal by January 1, key Great Lakes programs face mandatory 8.2 percent cuts through a process called “sequestration.” The reductions due to sequestration are on top of other potential budget cuts, threatening core clean water programs. Read about the impact of sequestration on Great Lakes programs at: http://bit.ly/PUnW4R
Based on fiscal year 2012 levels, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would be cut by $25 million, from $300 million to $275 million. The Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund—which helps communities fix old sewers—would be cut by $120 million, from $1.47 billion to $1.35 billion. By formula, the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would lose approximately $44 million.
“Cutting funding to essential clean water programs will not save the nation one penny,” said Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of Alliance for the Great Lakes. “In fact, cutting these programs will only make projects harder and more expensive the longer we wait. At a time when lawmakers need to make smart budget choices, Great Lakes restoration offers one of the best returns on the dollar in the federal budget. It’s a winner for the environment and the economy.”
The Obama Administration and U.S. Congress have invested more than $1 billion over the last three years to restore habitat, clean up toxic pollution, fight invasive species and reduce run-off from cities and farms as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Results have been promising, but work remains to reach the goals of a $20 billion restoration plan.
The call to maintain the nation’s investment in the Great Lakes comes after an election in which editorial boards from around the region urged both presidential contenders to support a strong Great Lakes platform. Polling commissioned by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition showed broad, bi-partisan support for Great Lakes restoration programs among Republican, Democratic and Independent voters in the region, including the swing states of Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“Great Lakes restoration unites people,” said Lynn McClure, Midwest Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “As people across the country look to President Obama and the U.S. Congress to work together to solve the nation’s problems, one logical place to start is with projects where we already have strong support from both sides of the aisle, the restoration of the Great Lakes—the largest source of surface drinking water on the planet.”
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of 120 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Learn more at www.healthylakes.org or follow us on Twitter @healthylakes.