National Commission of Fiscal Responsibility Proposes Cuts to Federal Agencies, Higher Fees
On November 10, 2010, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the bi-partisan commission established by President Obama in February 2010 to develop bipartisan consensus on solutions to address the nation’s fiscal challenges, released a draft report and presentation describing possible recommendations to achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020. In addition to more general recommendations, the draft proposal identifies $200 billion in more specific illustrative spending cuts in 2015. The draft proposal documents are publicly available at http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/news/cochairs-proposal. The Commission’s final recommendations are due to be released by December 1, 2010.
Several recommendations contained in the draft proposal should be of interest to the outfitting and guiding community:
- Reducing funding to the National Park Service (NPS) and allowing the agency to offset the reduction through fees. According to the draft report, under this option, $75 million in 2015, or about a quarter of the NPS’s expected spending on visitor services, would be paid for by a “small increase” in visitor fees. “Where visitor fees have been instituted, they vary greatly and are often anywhere from $3 to $25 per week. Raising $75 million in visitor fees would average under $0.25 per visitor.” In addition, this option would require the NPS to work through outstanding maintenance projects until its backlog is below $1 billion before it can fund new projects.
- Reducing land acquisition under the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The draft proposal recommends not funding LWCF until the federal government’s maintenance backlog for existing federal lands has been decreased to less than $1 billion.
- Creating a more cohesive and cost-effective fire management service. This option would require the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to follow U.S. Government Accountability Office recommendations with regard to fire management programs, and develop clear cost containment plans, in order to reduce yearly spending between the programs by 10 percent, or just under $400 million annually.
- Cutting the federal workforce by 20 percent (by limiting hiring to two workers for every three who leave government service). The nation’s federal land management agencies, particularly the U.S. Forest Service, already have difficulty processing permit and other requests on a timely basis due in part due to inadequate staffing and the complexity of the permitting process.
- Merging the Small Business Administration and Department of Commerce into a single agency and trimming its budget by 10 percent. Although the goal of such a recommendation is to strength the potential impact of the agencies’ respective programs, it is unclear how implementation of such a proposal might impact programs intended to assist small businesses.
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First Increase in Travel and Tourism-Related Employment in More Than Two Years
The U.S. Department of Commerce recently announced that total U.S. travel and tourism employment increased by 2.2 percent during the second quarter, marking the first increase in tourism-related employment since the first quarter of 2008.
- Tourism Spending. Real spending (adjusted for changes in price) on travel and tourism increased at an annual rate of 3.0 percent in Q2 2010, following an increase of 5.0 percent (revised) in Q1 2010. By comparison, real gross domestic product increased 1.7 percent in Q2 2010 after increasing 3.7 percent in Q1 2010.
- Tourism Prices. Prices for passenger air transportation continued their strong growth, rising 16.0 percent in Q2 2010. Prices for traveler accommodations showed a sharp upturn, too, increasing 19.0 percent in Q2 2010 after decreasing 6.4 percent in Q1 2010.
- Tourism Employment. Total travel and tourism employment rose 2.2 percent in Q2 2010 — the first increase since Q1 2008. Employment in traveler accommodations increased 4.7 percent in Q2 2010 after two straight years of decline.