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San Francisco -- Well, I've now had a chance to review the budget that the House Republicans offered as their alternative to President Obama's plan, which Congress passed. It's not surprising that 38 House Republicans -- a fifth of the total -- voted against their own party's proposal while also voting against Obama's. (Maybe we don't need a federal budget after all?)

Comparing the two budget plans limns starkly the corner into which ideology and sound bites have painted the House Republican caucus. If, as these Republicans do, you prioritize tax cuts, won't touch corporate welfare, and wish to garb yourself in a vague cloak of fiscal responsibility, you can't meet the basic needs of government.

Under the Republican budget proposal, the oil companies get to keep their huge and clearly profoundly needed tax breaks. Many of them get forgiven most of the royalties they should be paying the federal government -- but they also get access to public resources in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and off the coast. There's no restoration of the "polluter pays" principle for Superfund -- nor is there any other financing mechanism to clean up toxic-waste dumps.

After eight years of being slashed by Bush, funding for environmental functions like clean air and water enforcement, park maintenance, community protection from forest fires, sewage upgrades, staffing budgets for wildlife refuges -- all the core public environmental functions - would be frozen for five years. That amounts to cutting them by another sixth. On top of that, the Republican budget mandates almost $5 billion in additional environmental cuts for the next decade.

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