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Conservation in the President's FY2014 Budget

On April 10, President Obama released his budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2014. The budget is both a guide to the President's vision of the government, and a list of funding requests. The budget is only a proposal to Congress--and the final version will be altered significantly before it is approved by the House and Senate, which have both passed their own budget resolutions in the last few weeks.

The President's budget contains mixed news on land trust policy priorities. What follows are our initial conclusions -- we will provide more in-depth analysis and summary tables on Thursday.

Enhanced Easement Incentive & the Charitable Deduction

  • Unlike prior years, the Budget does NOT include a one-year extension of the "extenders package," which usually includes the  the enhanced tax incentive for donations of conservation easements.
  • In fact, it proposes to eliminate the tax incentive for donations of easements on golf courses and air rights above historic buildings.
  • Consistent with previous budgets, it proposes a 28% cap on the effective benefit of itemized deductions, including the charitable deduction. On the bright side, the charitable deduction IS specifically exempted from the limits on itemized deductions in the "Buffet Rule," which imposes a minimum 30% tax on high-income taxpayers.

 

Farm Bill

  • Funding levels for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and Grassland Reserve Program are complicated by changes in the authorizing language anticipated in the upcoming Farm Bill.
  • The requested $139 million for FRPP appears to be a substantial cut from the authorized level of $200 million, but we're seeking clarification of how the budget proposal will interact with those changes -- stay tuned.

Conservation Funding

  • For the first time, the President's budget seeks mandatory and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Beginning in FY 2015, LWCF would be fully funded at $900 million per year.
  • In FY 2014, the budget requests $600 million, with $200 million in mandatory spending for LWCF. This is nearly double the current funding level of $306 million, but it should be noted that the proposed "offsets" for the mandatory funding have previously proven unpalatable to Congress.
  • Click here to read a more detailed breakdown of the LWCF program, as well as LWCF and Forest Legacy acquisition projects for FY14.

Summary Table of Key Conservation Funding Programs

ProgramFY11 EnactedFY12 EnactedFY13 Obama BudgetFY13
House
FY13
Senate
FY13 Enacted (Full-year CR Sequestered) FY14 Obama Budget
Farm and Ranch lands Protection Program (FRPP) $175.0 $150.0 $200.0 $150.0 $200.0 $189.811 $139.0
Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) $78.6 $86.7 $5.06 $5.07 $116.77 $67.07 $07
Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)3 $301.0 $322.9 $450.0 $68.0 $378.0 $306.3 $600.012
LWCF Federal Acquisition4 $176.9 $199.5 $269.9 $51.6 $184.8 $189.2 $368.4
LWCF State Grants $40.0 $45.0 $60.0 $2.0 $45.6 $42.7 $60.0
Forest Legacy Program (FLP) $52.9 $53.4 $60.0 $3.0 $60.0 $50.6 $84.8
Cooperative Endangered Species Fund (Section 6) Land Acquisition5 $31.0 $25.0 $60.0 $11.4 $47.5 $23.7 $84.0
North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) $37.4 $35.6 $39.4 $22.3 $35.5 $33.8 $39.4
State Wildlife Grants (SWG) $61.9 $61.4 $61.3 $30.7 $61.3 $58.2 $61.3
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) $300.0 $300.0 $300.0 $250.0 $300.0 $284.5 $300.0
Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) $11.010 $3.0 $0 $0 $3.0 $2.8 $3.0

3 These LWCF totals include the italicized programs below, LWCF Federal acquisition, LWCF State Grants, Forest Legacy Program, and Section 6 Land Acquisition.

4 This subtotal includes acquisition funding directed to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and National Park Service (NPS), along with funding for the Office of Valuation Services (OVS). For breakdowns by agency and project, see our LWCF & Forest Legacy page (FY13 should be proportional to FY12).

5 Most of these numbers reflect only the portion of Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation grants derived from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for land acquisition. President Obama's budget requests have drawn all Cooperative Endangered Species funding from LWCF, and thus should be compared to the program totals. Total enacted funding for FY10, 11 and 12 was $85 m, $59.9 m, and $47.8 m respectively.

6 With continued authorization of the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) uncertain, the President's request includes only minimal funding for existing agreements and ongoing stewardship.

7 Spending for the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) is governed by increasing or decreasing the program's acreage cap. Dollar figures for current or future years are estimates in cases where the committee provides a summary table. The FY13 CR bill is silent on GRP. In light of the Farm Bill extension and sequestration, it's not yet clear how much funding OMB will actually apportion, but the FY14 budget appendix table lists $67 m for FY13, so that's probably a good approximation. The FY14 budget request is $0 based on GRP's expiring authorization and an assumption a new farm bill will merge stewardship into ACEP, that's a reasonable explanation but it's a bit worrisome considering they requested $7million for stewardship when faced with the same situation last year.

10 CELCP has received some of it's funding from GLRI in recent years: $5 m in FY10, $1 m in FY11 and further GLRI funds are expected in FY12. Thus there may be some double-counting in these items.

11 FRPP and GRP are considered "mandatory" spending, with automatic apportionments designated by the Farm Bill, but Congressional appropriators can and often do limit the funding available. In the case of Fiscal Year 2013, the continuing resolution's silence on FRPP should allow it to rise to its mandatory funding level of $200 m (reduced by sequestration to $189.8). The tricky element here is that OMB has already apportioned FY13 FRPP funds based on the assumption that Congress would provide $150 million; the Alliance will work to ensure that OMB actually allocates this additional funding.

12 In FY 2014, The President requests $400 million in appropriations funding for LWCF, and $200 million in "permanent," mandatory spending.

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Advocates Alerts

July 17: The House just voted 277-130 to pass the charities package! 56 Democrats joined their Republican colleagues to support charitable giving incentives, including the enhanced easement incentive - the second-highest number of defections after the research and development tax credit. Several others spoke on the floor in support of the conservation easement incentive, and other favorable charitable incentives. Thank you to organizations like Ducks Unlimited, CSF and others that reached out to Congressional offices over the last few days or alerted their membership of this important vote. Now, we pivot to the Senate.
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