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Obama Budget Cuts USGS; Transportation Bill Coming

According to an analysis by the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), President Obama’s proposed FY'14 budget would make further cuts to the U.S. Geological Survey Minerals Resources Program resulting in additional reductions in the collection of minerals supply and demand data by the National Minerals Information Center. Of the proposed reduction in funding for the Minerals Resources Program of $2.4 million, $1.157 million would come from the NMIC. An increase in funding of $1 million will go to rare earth elements research and an increase of $1.13 million for the research-and-assessment side of the MRP.

According to the highlights of the USGS budget, “a net reduction of $2.4 million in the Minerals Resources Program is included as the program evaluates options to modernize and realign in an era of rapidly changing minerals information and science needs.” NMIC staff is unclear what this means; instead of a possible reduction in financial resources, could it also imply some increased resources to achieve those “options” to modernize?

Although the president’s proposed budget is not likely to move, it is troubling that year-to-year there are calls to further reduce funding for the NMIC, the only entity that collects minerals data. NSSGA will continue to press for retention of this program and against further funding reductions.

NSSGA also reports that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood testified April 16 before the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee on the FY’14 Transportation budget, saying the administration plans to offer a “bold [transportation] plan...which will include funding” after Congress completes action on guns and immigration. Of course, it is anyone’s guess how quickly that will happen. The House is waiting for the Senate to act on guns, and both chambers are crafting immigration bills with no set timetable for action.

LaHood told the appropriators, “I believe that when you finish working on guns and immigration, you will see a bold plan put out by this administration. It will be a part of the president’s vision once he’s not busy with these other matters.”

LaHood’s comments came in response to Subcommittee Chairman Tom Latham (R-Iowa), who pushed him on the FY’14 DOT budget request’s proposal to pay for additional infrastructure from the peace dividend from the end of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Most contend that there is no such dividend and, if there is, it has already been spent.