BIA proposal includes slight increases
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APRIL 10, 2001

Secretary of Interior Gale Norton on Monday rolled out her department's fiscal year 2002 budget proposal but it includes only slight increases to programs the administration has highlighted as critical to meeting its obligations to Indian Country.

Funding for school construction, a key promise made by President George W. Bush to tribal leaders as part of his "leave no child behind" mantra, is being increased by less than one-half of 1 percent over the amount enacted under the Clinton administration. The Bush budget asks for $292.5 million, an increase of $162,000 from 2001.

Of that amount, $122.8 million will go towards the construction of six schools in most need of repair. Wingate Elementary in New Mexico, Polacca Day School in Arizona, Holbrook Dormitory in Arizona, Santa Fe Indian School in New Mexico, Ojibwa Indian School in North Dakota, and Paschal Sherman Indian School in Washington will receive the priority funds.

While planning will begin almost immediately, BIA officials said it would be two or three years before projects at the schools would be complete. There are a total of 20 schools on the priority list, updated by former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover before he left office.

The administration's pledge to support self-determination wasn't immediately reflected in yesterday's proposal either. Although tribal priority allocations (TPA) increased 3.4 percent to $750.5 million, the proposal falls 12 percent short of the identified need for contract support funds.

TPAs are distributed to more than 550 tribes and comprise 42 percent of the BIA's Indian Programs budget, the largest of any program. The funds are used by tribes to administer programs as they see fit and are a key part of the federal government's self-determination policy.

Acting Assistant Secretary James McDivitt acknowledged tribes might not be excited about the TPA request. But he said there is always room for increases in future fiscal year budgets. TPAs had increased 4.6 percent from 2000 to 2001 (*) under Clinton.

The Bush administration is seeking to make its first installments on a number of land and water settlements recently enacted into law. These payments make up the bulk of the increase in the BIA proposal.

The budget requests $6 million for the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Tribe of California (land), $2 million for Santo Domingo Pueblo of New Mexico (land), $8 million for two Ute tribes in Colorado (water), and $5 million for the Shivwits Band of Paiute of Utah (water). Ojibwe Tribes in Michigan would get a $4.3 million boost to $6.3 million for a fishing rights settlement with the state.

In total, the budget seeks $60 million for water and land payments, an increase of $23.5 million, or 62.8 percent, from 2001.

In light of a number of cuts within the agency and a 4 percent decrease overall in Interior spending, the Bureau of Indian Affairs emerged along with the National Park Service as strongholds in the department. At $2.2 billion, the BIA will see a 3.1 percent increase of $65.9 million, should Congress enact it as proposed.

The BIA also makes up 22 percent of the Interior budget, rivaled only by the NPS at 25 percent.

Although the budget estimates a loss of 131 BIA employees, McDivitt said layoffs are not expected. The decrease in employees is due to attrition, said McDivitt.

* - Ed. Note: Due to a typographical error, the phrase "2000 to 2001" was incorrectly stated as "2001 to 2001" in the originally posted version of this story. 8PM EST.

Get the Budget:
Fiscal Year 2002 Interior Budget in Brief (DOI 4/9)
Interior Highlights(The White House February 2001)

Get Norton's Remarks:
The Honorable Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, 2002 Budget Rollout (DOI 4/9)

Related Stories:
BIA Budget: To cut or not to cut?(4/9)
Bush cuts Interior budget (3/1)
Fiscal Year 2002: The Budget Overview (3/1)
Bush pushes tax cut, budget (2/28)
Norton to address Indian affairs (2/28)
Norton outlines Indian Country priorities (2/23)
Norton warns of Interior budget cuts (2/16)
Tribal Schools on Priority List (2/16)
Indian funding signed into law (10/12)