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President releases budget details

WASHINGTON - After weeks of anticipation, President Bush finally released the details of his FY2002 budget proposal, including American Indian programs. The BIA and the Indian Health Service would receive increases, but some cuts were evident.

The proposal includes a $2.2 billion budget for the BIA, an increase of $65.9 million over FY2001, and a $3.3 billion budget for the IHS, a $107 million increase. Funding increases primarily focused on the president's promise to replace, maintain and operate American Indian schools, reform trust management and improve public safety on tribal lands. Increases for water and land claim settlements and higher pay for IHS employees, self-determination contracts and construction were included.

"This request reflects the Bush administration's determination to protect the rights of American Indian and Alaska Native citizens," said James McDivit, acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs.

While the new budget contains many increases, several cuts are proposed, the largest in welfare assistance, self-governance grants, endangered species, distance learning programs and IHS facilities construction.

Welfare assistance would be cut by $2.5 million, self-governance grants by $256,000, and distance learning by $998,000. The proposed IHS budget eliminates funding for two facility construction programs that received $15 million in FY2001.

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Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development, funding levels for tribal housing would have no significant increases.

Under the Environmental Protection Agency, tribal general assistance and clean water programs receive no significant increases.

Although some areas were cut, the administration is touting its strong funding levels for American Indian education, trust reform, law enforcement and land and water settlements. The president requested $292.5 million, an increase of $162,000 over FY2001, for BIA school construction, $161.6 million to address critical health and safety concerns at existing education facilities, $504 million for school operations, $118.4 million for several BIA trust service programs, and $160.7 million for the BIA law enforcement.

To meet the federal government's obligations for authorized settlements on claims to water and lands in California, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico and Utah, the proposed budget requests $60.9 million, an increase of $23.5 million. However, the proposal also includes cuts to the Ute Indian Rights Settlement, Rocky Boys Settlement, Walker River Paiute Settlement and the Pyramid Lake Settlement.

The budget will now be considered by Congress and become the focus of a series of committee hearings throughout the summer. Congress and the administration must agree on a budget by Oct. 1 to avoid a continuing resolution or a government shutdown.