McClatchy Washington Bureau Feb. 9, 2016
California has a lot to chew over in the Obama administration’s final budget proposal, from money for a downtown Sacramento streetcar line to expansion of public lands in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
It dedicates several million dollars to filling out checkerboard landownership within the El Dorado and Tahoe national forests and augmenting the Pacific Crest National Trail, and it includes money for levee projects in the flood-prone Natomas area of Sacramento.
“It is a bold, forward-looking plan for a new American future,” declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
But the package, which spans more than 2,300 pages, also renews presidential ideas that invariably fall flat, from new agricultural inspection fees to cuts in reimbursements for states that incarcerate criminal aliens. Facing a Republican-controlled Congress, many proposals are simply dead on arrival.
“Our country doesn’t need more empty political posturing like the president’s budget,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.
As it does every year, the administration proposes an array of new fees that Congress appears likely to reject. The roughly 380 ranchers who graze livestock on Forest Service land in California, for instance, would have to pay a new monthly administrative fee of $2.50 per head. Lawmakers prefer to keep fees low, or nonexistent, for those using public land.
The administration likewise is reviving long-standing, politically inert proposals for charging new fees and royalties for hard-rock mining on federal lands. In California, the federal Bureau of Land Management reports having about 21,000 hard-rock mining claims, with operational plans covering about 24,000 acres.
The budget and an Army Corps of Engineers work plan likewise include some $32 million for construction of the Natomas levee improvement project in the Sacramento area, as well as money for Folsom Dam modifications and $70.5 million for dam safety improvements at Isabella Lake in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
The six California members of the House Appropriations Committee, and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the Senate Appropriations Committee, will now start crafting the fiscal 2017 appropriations bills required to operate the government starting Oct. 1.
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