April 03, 2009

Crapo: Budget Blueprint Too Expensive

Wins concessions on alternative energy, nuclear research

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo said attempts to pare back the Senate's budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year fell short and he had to vote against the proposal. Crapo, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, saw some of his efforts to amend the FY 2010 Budget Resolution to bolster renewable energy and other issues rewarded, however, in the final product. The Senate approved the budget resolution on a 55 to 43 vote. No Republican Senators voted in favor of the measure.

Crapo has warned that energy research and development needs to remain a strong part of the nation's spending priorities regardless of the final budget numbers. He successfully offered amendments that make sure funds are held in reserve for energy research that will benefit the Idaho National Laboratory and for additional loan guarantees for domestic nuclear power and other clean power sources.

"There is disagreement about the size of the budget, but we must step up our efforts to gain energy independence," Crapo said. "We do that by prioritizing spending on energy research and development, singling out clean technology such as nuclear power generation and maintaining the research and development necessary to attain energy independence." Idaho Senator Jim Risch joined Crapo to co-sponsor the amendments.

On Tuesday the Senate Banking Committee passed by voice vote an amendment offered by Crapo that will ensure that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) have the resources necessary to address future contingencies and fulfill the government's commitment to protect insured depositors. Included in the budget blueprint is a Crapo amendment to expedite this legislative process. Recent bank and credit union failures have significantly depleted both the FDIC's and the NCUA's deposit insurance funds. Both the FDIC and NCUA are in the process of increasing assessments on financial institutions to replenish the insurance funds.

"These increased assessments could put a severe financial strain on banks and credit unions in some of our smaller- and mid-sized communities if levied too quickly," Crapo said. "This could reduce the ability of these financial institutions to lend to small businesses and consumers, the type of credit activity that our economy so desperately needs right now."

He also kept funding secure for the victims of domestic violence by turning back an effort to take funds from the Crime Victims Fund for other uses. The Fund is comprised of fines and fees paid by the perpetrators of abuse, not tax dollars, but Congress has often attempted to raid it for other uses.

Crapo fought unsuccessfully to include funding for Yucca Mountain licensing activities and to install budget caps on out-year spending past the FY 2010 blueprint, but said he will continue his effort to prioritize the eventual budget agreement to benefit Idaho concerns. He co-sponsored amendments to enhance the GI Bill for veterans, support health care research and to call for full funding of hazardous fuel reduction under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. Crapo said the unanimous approval for the Healthy Forests amendment, if followed through by appropriators; means new job creation and a reduced fire threat in Idaho's forests under the Act's hazardous fuels reduction provisions.

The Senate-passed blueprint calls for more than $3.5 trillion in spending and would double the national debt in five years. It now heads to a conference committee with members of the U.S. House of Representatives.