Mandatory federal budget cuts that take effect in 2013 could strike a serious blow at Great Lakes restoration programs, according to panelists at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Cleveland.
Chad Lord, policy director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said the Budget Control Act of 2011 requires Congress to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget. That will likely translate into cuts of 9 percent, or more, to Great Lakes programs, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
“After the November election comes the train wreck, the fiscal cliff,” Lord said.
Grand Valley State University Economist Paul Isely said the federal budget cuts could mean 60-130 fewer Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects receiving federal funds in 2013. He said the GLRI, which has received $1 billion over the past three years, could be cut by as much as $127 million in 2013.
Despite that grim news, pollster Emma White said there is wide bipartisan support for funding Great Lakes restoration programs.
“You’ve got broad support and bipartisan support for Great Lakes restoration funding and for not cutting it.” said White, senior director at Belden Russonello Strategists. “Our country is more and more divided on environmental issues. Great Lakes restoration is that rare issue where we don’t see that difference.”
Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said this isn’t the time to cut funding for Great Lakes programs.
“Restoration projects are producing results, but there is more work to do,” Skelding said. “Both President Obama and Governor Romney need to remain resolute in their commitment to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Cutting funding and failing to address the Asian carp crisis will make projects more difficult and expensive the longer we wait.”
The HOW Coalition is asking the presidential candidates to sign the “Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Candidate Pledge.” Read the full pledge at: http://bit.ly/2012GLpledge