United Tribes NewsLeaders question B-I-A budget priorities
12 February 2004
BISMARCK, ND - Next year's Federal spending plan unveiled by the Bush Administration is a "bad budget" for Indian Country. That's the sentiment of Tex Hall, Chairman of Three Affiliated Tribes and President of the National Congress of American Indians.
Speaking February 12 at United Tribes Technical College, Hall said the budget does not reflect priorities that tribes have been working on for a long time. He wants to know who made the final budget decisions for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
"We've rolled up our sleeves to work on the budget through the bureau's budget advisory council," said Hall. "And we don't know who approved this budget as it came out."
According to Hall, the budget was decreased by $52 million. Another $100 million was shifted into different line items for purposes other than those prioritized by tribes. Funding was taken from education programs, school construction, transportation, and roads. The budget shifts appear to emphasize the department's controversial efforts at trust reform. The effect is a budget that clearly leaves Indian families behind, said Hall.
"There's going to be people who will say that the tribes bought off on this," said Hall. "And that's completely hogwash. This budget is not supported by the National Tribal B-I-A Budget Advisory Council or Aberdeen Area leaders."
Among specific budget changes Hall pointed to was the elimination of $3 million in funding for United Tribes Technical College.
UTTC President David M. Gipp told the gathering that the B-I-A budget points to the absence of a national priority to educate and train Indian children, youth and adults.
"The Interior Department is very interested in harvesting timber and extracting the oil in Alaska for business," said Gipp. "But what about the human resources in Indian America?"
Hall explained that tribes have followed the bureau's budget methodology using justification forms and program assessment rating tools to show that funding is well spent.
"We've been at the table contributing to the formation of these budgets," said Hall. "We want to know what happened this time? Was it at the central office? Was it at OMB? We don't know. And we need to have an answer."
Hall said he was optimistic that earlier recommendations would be restored as tribal leaders submitted their priorities to Congress in the very near future.
Tribal leaders, agency superintendents and administrative personnel attended the Great Plains B-I-A Regional budget information and planning meeting. They reviewed the proposed FY 2005 budget and focused on forming plans, identifying priorities and making recommendations for the FY 2006 budget.
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