Thursday, February 01, 2007
Relax: No RIFS ... For Now ...
Domenici says no need for employee layoffs
-ROGER SNODGRASS, Monitor Assistant Editor, Los Alamos Monitor, Thursday, February 1, 2007
At-risk projects at Los Alamos National Laboratory, like the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility and the environmental cleanup program mandated by the state are expected to survive in the new federal appropriations bill.
An omnibus, long-term continuing resolution scheduled for a vote today will "suitably treat" New Mexico's national laboratories, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., reported Tuesday.
There will be no need for layoffs this year, according to commitments from the National Nuclear Security Administration, he said.
"The staff has been working full time over the last several weeks to see that the labs were taken care of," said Chris Gallegos, the senator's spokesman.
Appropriations for the current year were not completed during the last session of Congress, causing many projects envisioned for the year to face cuts or abandonment.
Rather than start at the beginning of an appropriations well into the new fiscal year, Democrats last December decided to go with a budget based on last year's numbers, vowing to cut out "earmarks," often considered pet projects of senators and representatives.
"I adamantly dislike the manner in which we're handling the FY 2007 appropriations process, but I have been working to make sure that we ended up with a best case scenario for the DOE work, particularly in New Mexico," Domenici said in an announcement. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad should also be fully funded for the rest of the year.
The two national nuclear laboratories in New Mexico will keep "major priorities, like the weapons program, largely intact." Domenici added.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Committee greeted the decision with measured approval.
"Like all of my Senate colleagues, I wish the leadership in the last Congress had taken up and passed the spending bills in the fall. That said, I believe the continuing resolution was fair to the Department of Energy, funding initiatives that affect New Mexico such as the NNSA stockpile stewardship efforts at Sandia and Los Alamos and effective operations of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant," Bingaman said.
Under the new appropriations, divvying up the funding pie will fall to each department.
"Congress is going to leave it up to the agencies to decide where funding goes," said Gallegos. "It's up to lawmakers to point out why projects in their states need funding.
Another piece of funding that was salvaged under the new arrangement, he added, would boost DOE's Office of Science. Gallegos said competitive initiatives sponsored by New Mexico's two senators will gain $330 million under the adjustments worked out with energy officials.
Approval of an interim budget will clear the table for debate over next year's spending proposals.
Now Pete is saying that he has financially saved the labs with his latest budget victory and there will be no layoffs. While the budget for the remaining months of this year has improved, the weapons budget is still down by about $95 million complex wide. With the CR, it was running at a burn rate that was down by $495 million, as demanded by the House and the enforcement of the CR. Our situation is better, but we are still walking on thin ice.
Pete is a politician. He brings home the pork to his home state like no other politician in Congress. However, since he is a politican, you must be very careful of the trust you put into his words.