On Monday the president is scheduled to release his budget proposal for the 2009 fiscal year. What will be interesting to see is whether he continues to show some love for the National Park Service.
President Bush's FY08 budget proposal for the parks was widely praised because it contained not just what was dubbed the largest-ever increase in operating funds for the Park Service, but also because it outlined the so-called Centennial Initiative that was intended to prepare the agency for its centennial in 2016.
The initiative was envisioned as a way to generate $3 billion in funds for the Park Service en route to its centennial. One billion would come from private donors, another one billion would come from a federal match of those private dollars, and the third billion dollars would come from ten years of an extra $100 million -- a presidential bump, if you will -- in the agency's budget.
Well, things haven't turned out exactly as President Bush and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne envisioned, as Congress approved only $25 million in matching funds -- not the $100 million the president requested -- for the initiative. (Of course, Congress has yet to pass the legislation necessary to create the matching program.)
What will be interesting to learn Monday is whether the president still thinks highly of the parks. Preliminary reports concerning the $3 trillion budget proposal say it contains a $2 billion, or 3 percent, cut in funding for the Health and Human Services Department. Education funding would be frozen; not even inflation would be matched. If those two programs fare so poorly, can the Park Service expect to see a bump in its funding?
And let's not forget, the president's FY06 budget contained a $100 million funding cut for the Park Service (one that Congress never approved), and he generated that so-called historic increase in operational funding for the agency in his FY08 proposal by slashing other areas of the Park Service's budget. Further analysis of the '08 proposal revealed other shortfalls and pitfalls.
Any guesses on how the Park Service will fare under his '09 proposal?