Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke recently testified before the House Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee on the Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) FY18 budget proposal.
Early discussion centered on the proposed $1.6 billion cut compared to the department’s $13.1 billion FY17 funding level. The committee expressed concern that the DOI will not be able to meet its obligations with lower levels of funding. Secretary Zinke justified the budget cuts as a step towards a balanced budget, attempting to quell Representative’s displeasure by repeatedly telling committee members, ”this is what a balanced budget would look like,” and calling it a, “starting point.”
The Secretary went on to discuss the profitability of his department and the decrease in rents and royalties from offshore leases, citing the drop from $18 billion in income from offshore leases in 2008 to $2.6 billion in 2016. Hinting that an uptick in offshore leases would provide the necessary income to raise the department’s budget, he brought into question federal land leasing practices, calling for transparency of rents and royalties and the need to ensure that taxpayers are getting fair value from federal land leases.
Secretary Zinke informed committee members he has created a committee to review DOI incomes. Current federal land leasing is a broken and outdated system. It does not reflect market value of federal lands. Taxpayers for Common Sense has also called for changes to federal land leasing practices and welcomes changes to leasing practices that will benefit taxpayers.