Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Advocacy Update: Dollars and Sense?

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Advocacy Update: Dollars and Sense?

Article excerpt

An analysis of the president's proposed budget for fiscal year 2009 leaves much to be desired for national recreation and park priorities.

President Bush's fiscal year 2009 $3 trillion budget proposal, released in early February, is the source of much concern for many park and recreation professionals and supporters. Some of our most important conservation and recreation programs face drastic cuts or, in some cases, elimination.

By way of background, each year, on or before the first Monday in February, the president delivers his annual budget for federal expenditures, which outlines the administration's funding priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1. The president's proposed budget marks the start of the appropriations process and is intended to serve as a blueprint for Congress as it authorizes funding levels for federal agencies and programs, then appropriates funds for various programs.

As in previous years, most domestic programs outside of Homeland security will fall victim to substantial cuts if the budget is adopted as presented. In an attempt to reduce the deficit by the year 2012, the president has proposed approximately $2.4 billion less in spending for discretionary programs. More than 150 major federal programs are proposed for termination, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) state assistance program. Congress has not, in recent years, followed through on these severe program cuts, but all are on notice that funding for discretionary programs will be severely curtailed.

Despite the president's proposed $169 million increase for the National Park Service's operational budget, state and local park and recreation agencies would be negatively affected by the proposed budget. Of greatest concern to NRPA members is the president's proposal regarding the LWCF state assistance program. While LWCF is regarded as the most important program for land conservation and outdoor recreation for states and local communities, the White House has, for four straight years, recommended eliminating all funding for LWCF state assistance.

In addition, the president's budget proposal requests that administrative oversight funding be removed from LWCF, a serious threat to the viability of this program that has served the country well for more than 40 years. A tremendous resource for state and local park agencies, LWCF has provided some $4 billion in federal aid for more than 41,000 state and local projects. Additionally, it is the only federal program to support the acquisition and development of open space for local parks and outdoor recreation facilities.

President Bush's budget triggers additional concern for urban park and recreation agencies. While the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery program of the National Park Service has not been funded since 2002, funding has been available through this program for the administration of existing grants. The president's fiscal year 2009 budget once again calls for zero funding for UPARR and recommends cutting funds used by the program for the administration of existing grants. As the call to rehabilitate our deteriorating urban parks has intensified, NRPA notes that now is not the time to further impede urban agencies from using federal investment to revitalize resources in economically distressed areas.

Programs funding health, wellness, and the promotion of physical activity to meet national goals for reducing chronic disease, preventing obesity, and promoting active recreation would also be adversely affected. …

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