Last week, President Biden released his budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts next October. The proposal marks the beginning of the annual process of determining funding levels for the alphabet soup of federal programs, from NASA missions to embassy upkeep, and everything else in between.

The President’s budget calls for reducing the deficit over the next decade while also spending more than $2 trillion on a host of new domestic policy initiatives, paid for by more than $4.5 trillion in new revenue, primarily through hefty tax hikes on high earners and large corporations and by reining in federal spending on prescription drugs. The proposal envisions about $10 trillion in annual federal spending by 2033 — up from roughly $6.3 trillion currently.

A number of programs that impact CRM are included in the budget proposal, including:

  • Historic Preservation Fund. Biden’s budget proposes $177.9 million for the Fund in fiscal 2024. At first glance, that number appears to be a significant reduction from the $204.5 million Congress provided for FY23, but the reduction reflects the fact that the amount Congress provided included $29 million in earmarks for specific projects, which the President’s budget does not include. When earmarks are factored out, the White House is proposing a small increase in HPF funding over the current fiscal year.

The President’s budget also proposes, for the first time, $2.5 million in standalone funding for the Tribal Heritage Grants program, which awards competitive grants to support Indian Tribes, Alaska Native villages and corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations for the preservation and protection of their cultural heritage.

  • Permitting Programs. The proposal would spend more on environmental permitting programs to, in the White House’s words, “expedite delivery of new and modernized infrastructure.”
  • Clean Energy on Public Lands. The proposal would provide $181 million to accelerate the deployment of clean energy infrastructure on public lands, an increase of $70 million from the current fiscal year. According to the White House, the money “would support the leasing, planning, and permitting of solar, wind, and geothermal energy projects, and associated transmission infrastructure that would help mitigate the impacts of climate change and meet the Administration’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and 25 gigawatts of clean energy capacity on public lands by 2025.”
  • African-American Burial Grounds, Following enactment last year of the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act, the President’s budget would provide funding to launch the NPS program to identify, restore and support African American burial grounds.
  • Preservation of Underrepresented Communities. The budget proposal includes a new $10 million initiative for “Increasing Representation in Our Public Lands,” designed to support “recent or potential new designations that preserve important places and tell the stories of those that have been historically underrepresented.”
  • Recreation and Parks. The budget plan would provide $135 million to the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Program “to develop high-quality recreation opportunities in economically disadvantaged urban communities,” and includes a new $32 million initiative “to build a more equitable National Park System, including investments to expand tribal co-stewardship of national parks; address transportation barriers between parks and underserved communities; and improve park accessibility for visitors and employees with disabilities.”
  • Remediation of Abandoned Wells and Mines. The proposal includes $311 million to remediate orphaned oil and gas wells and reclaim abandoned mine lands on federal and non-federal lands. This would come on top of the $16 billion provided by the 2021 infrastructure law for orphaned well remediation and abandoned coal mine reclamation.
  • Catastrophic Wildfire Mitigation. The proposal would provide $314 million for the Interior Department’s Hazardous Fuels Management and Burned Area Rehabilitation programs to “reduce the risk and severity of wildfires and restore lands devastated by catastrophic fire.”

What’s Next?

The release of the President’s budget is the start of an arduous process that leads towards the enactment of appropriations (spending) bills for federal agencies by the start of the new fiscal year. In theory, Congress is supposed to pass such bills and send them to the President by the end of the current fiscal year, September 30. In reality, that deadline has rarely been met in recent decades, forcing lawmakers to pas temporary “continuing resolutions” and, in extreme cases, leading to government shutdowns.

With the House controlled by Republicans who want to reduce government spending to fiscal year 2022 levels, not to mention the GOP’s insistence that they will approve lifting the debt ceiling only if paired with spending cuts, this year’s budget process will be more contentious than usual. Expect House Republicans to ignore Biden’s proposals completely as they craft their budget plans. (And even the Democrats who hold a majority in the Senate are likely to diverge significantly from the White House’s plans in various ways.) With Republicans and Democrats holding narrow majorities in the House and Senate, respectively, getting appropriations bills through each chamber – much less finding agreement across party lines – will be a tough task.

Regardless of the outcome, it is essential for advocates of preservation and CRM to press Congress to invest in programs that help balance the need to build with the imperative of safeguarding our history.

Join Us in DC To Speak Out for CRM

A key component of ACRA’s efforts is using the power of its membership to engage their elected representatives about why CRM matters to their communities.

That’s why ACRA is holding its annual Capitol Hill Fly-In April 25-26, 2023. For the first time since the pandemic began, ACRA members are going to meet with their House and Senate representatives in person in Washington, DC.

ACRA will arrange meetings and provide training beforehand. There is no cost to register for the Fly-In, but attendees are responsible for making your travel and lodging accommodations.

Please sign up today and show your support for the CRM industry!