Trump's Budget Declares War on Sustainability

Most Federal Programs on the Chopping Block

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Donald J. Tump, Sr., is the 45th president of the United States.

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Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 11:23 am

The opening salvo of President Trump's war on sustainability was fired last week when he released his preliminary budget outline for FY2018.

As promised throughout his campaign and in the early months of his administration, Trump’s first budget proposal to Congress attempts to lead the United States in a completely new direction, with a dramatic shift in national priorities.

Citing his convictions that America is under siege by illegal immigrants and foreign terror groups, riddled with violent crime, and treated unfairly by its global trade partners, Trump said he instructed his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, “to craft a budget that emphasizes national security and public safety.”

The blueprint calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending and more investment in immigration enforcement, the border wall, and criminal justice programs, while balancing the books with deep cuts to sustainability, climate action, environmental protection, public transportation, domestic social programs and aid to foreign nations. The cuts are intended to keep federal debt in check while significantly shrinking the size of the federal government, reducing regulations on businesses and shifting financial responsibility for many social programs to the states, local governments and the private sector.

“The American people elected me to fight for their priorities in Washington, D.C. and deliver on my promise to protect our Nation,” the president wrote in the budget’s introduction. “I fully intend to keep that promise.”

The proposal entitled “America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” submitted to Congress by the Trump Administration last week, calls for a $2.6 billion cut in money allocated to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, eliminating 3,200 employees and slashing its budget by 31 percent. Additional cuts would gut environmental and social equity programs in the departments of Agriculture (-21%), Commerce (-16%), Education (-13%), Energy (-5.6%), Health & Human Services (-17.9%), Housing and Urban Development (-13.2%), Interior (-12%), Justice (-3.8%), Labor (-21%), State (-28%), and Transportation (-13%).

“Consistent with the President’s approach to move the Nation toward fiscal responsibility, the Budget eliminates and reduces hundreds of programs and focuses funding to redefine the proper role of the Federal Government,” the proposal states.

“The Budget also proposes to eliminate funding for other independent agencies, including: the African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.”

The rationale for many of the cuts includes broadly generalized claims that the programs are “lower priority and poorly performing” or that their functions are “duplicative, unnecessary, unproven, or ineffective,” or that financing such services should be the responsibility of the states, local governments or the private sector.

The proposed budget is already running into stanch resistance from Democrats and many Republicans in Congress as well as countless special interest groups, signaling the protracted battle to come.

The following excerpts from the Trump plan illustrate some of the sustainability-related programs that would be eliminated if the administration gets its way.

Environmental Protection Agency

“Discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts — saving over $100 million for the American taxpayer…. Consistent with the President’s America First Energy Plan, the Budget reorients EPA’s air program to protect the air we breathe without unduly burdening the American economy.”

“Reins in Superfund administrative costs and emphasizes efficiency efforts by funding the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account at $762 million, $330 million below the 2017 annualized CR level. The agency would prioritize the use of existing settlement funds to clean up hazardous waste sites and look for ways to remove some of the barriers that have delayed the program’s ability to return sites to the community.”

“Avoids duplication by concentrating EPA’s enforcement of environmental protection violations on programs that are not delegated to States, while providing oversight to maintain consistency and assistance across State, local, and tribal programs. This reduces EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance budget to $419 million, which is $129 million below the 2017 annualized CR level.”

“Better targets EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) at a level of approximately $250 million, which would result in a savings of $233 million…. ORD would prioritize activities that support decision-making related to core environmental statutory requirements, as opposed to extramural activities, such as providing STAR grants.”

“Supports Categorical Grants with $597 million, a $482 million reduction…. These lower levels are in line with the broader strategy of streamlining environmental protection. This funding level eliminates or substantially reduces Federal investment in State environmental activities that go beyond EPA’s statutory requirements.”

“Eliminates funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs. These geographic program eliminations are $427 million lower than the 2017 annualized CR levels. The Budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.”

“Eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, saving an additional $347 million…. Lower priority and poorly performing programs and grants are not funded, nor are duplicative functions that can be absorbed into other programs or that are State and local responsibilities. Examples of eliminations in addition to those previously mentioned include: Energy Star; Targeted Airshed Grants; the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program; and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border.”

Department of Agriculture

“Eliminates the duplicative Water and Wastewater loan and grant program, a savings of $498 million…. Rural communities can be served by private sector financing or other Federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the EPA’s State Revolving Funds.”

“Reduces staffing in USDA’s Service Center Agencies to streamline county office operations, reflect reduced Rural Development workload, and encourage private sector conservation planning.”

“Reduces duplicative and underperforming programs by eliminating discretionary activities of the Rural Business and Cooperative Service, a savings of $95 million….”

“Eliminates the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, which lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented to reduce food insecurity.”

Department of Commerce

“Zeroes out over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant, which primarily benefit industry and State and local stakeholders.”

Department of Education

“Eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before- and after-school programs as well as summer programs, resulting in savings of $1.2 billion…. The program lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.”

“Eliminates the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, a less well-targeted way to deliver need-based aid than the Pell Grant program, to reduce complexity in financial student aid and save $732 million.”

“Eliminates or reduces over 20 categorical programs that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, or are more appropriately supported with State, local, or private funds, including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs.”

Department of Energy

“Eliminates the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program because the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.”

“Ensures the Office of Science continues to invest in the highest priority basic science and energy research and development as well as operation and maintenance of existing scientific facilities for the community. This includes a savings of approximately $900 million.”

“Focuses funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Nuclear Energy, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and the Fossil Energy Research and Development program on limited, early-stage applied energy research and development activities where the Federal role is stronger. In addition, the Budget eliminates the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program to reduce Federal intervention in State-level energy policy and implementation. Collectively, these changes achieve a savings of approximately $2 billion….”

Department of Health and Human Services

“Reduces the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) spending… by $5.8 billion to $25.9 billion. The Budget includes a major reorganization of NIH’s Institutes and Centers to help focus resources on the highest priority research and training activities, including: eliminating the Fogarty International Center; consolidating the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality within NIH; and other consolidations and structural changes across NIH organizations and activities. The Budget also reduces administrative costs and rebalances Federal contributions to research funding.”

“Eliminates the discretionary programs within the Office of Community Services, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), a savings of $4.2 billion…. Compared to other income support programs that serve similar populations, LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes. CSBG funds services that are duplicative of other Federal programs, such as emergency food assistance and employment services, and is also a limited-impact program.”

Department of Housing and Urban Development

“Eliminates funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, a savings of $3 billion…. The Federal Government has spent over $150 billion on this block grant since its inception in 1974, but the program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results. The Budget devolves community and economic development activities to the State and local level, and redirects Federal resources to other activities.”

“Promotes fiscal responsibility by eliminating funding for a number of lower priority programs, including the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, a savings of over $1.1 billion…. State and local governments are better positioned to serve their communities based on local needs and priorities.”

“Eliminates funding for Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing, a savings of $35 million…. This program is duplicative of efforts funded by philanthropy and other more flexible private sector investments.”

Department of the Interior

“Eliminates unnecessary, lower priority, or duplicative programs, including discretionary Abandoned Mine Land grants that overlap with existing mandatory grants, National Heritage Areas that are more appropriately funded locally, and National Wildlife Refuge fund payments to local governments that are duplicative of other payment programs.”

“Supports tribal sovereignty and self-determination across Indian Country by focusing on core funding and services to support ongoing tribal government operations. The Budget reduces funding for more recent demonstration projects and initiatives that only serve a few Tribes.”

Department of Justice

“Eliminates approximately $700 million in unnecessary spending on outdated programs that either have met their goal or have exceeded their usefulness, including $210 million for the poorly targeted State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, in which two-thirds of the funding primarily reimburses four States for the cost of incarcerating certain illegal criminal aliens.”

Department of Labor

“Reduces funding for ineffective, duplicative, and peripheral job training grants. As part of this, eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), for a savings of $434 million…. SCSEP is ineffective in meeting its purpose of transitioning low-income unemployed seniors into unsubsidized jobs. As many as one-third of participants fail to complete the program and of those who do, only half successfully transition to unsubsidized employment.”

“Improves Job Corps for the disadvantaged youth it serves by closing centers that do a poor job educating and preparing students for jobs.”

“Decreases Federal support for job training and employment service formula grants, shifting more responsibility for funding these services to States, localities, and employers.”

“Refocuses the Office of Disability Employment Policy, eliminating less critical technical assistance grants and launching an early intervention demonstration project to allow States to test and evaluate methods that help individuals with disabilities remain attached to or reconnect to the labor market.”

“Eliminates the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s unproven training grants, yielding savings of almost $11 million… and focusing the agency on its central work of keeping workers safe on the job.

The Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

“Eliminates the Global Climate Change Initiative and fulfills the President’s pledge to cease payments to the United Nations’ (UN) climate change programs by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds.”

Department of Transportation

“Restructures and reduces Federal subsidies to Amtrak to focus resources on the parts of the passenger rail system that provide meaningful transportation options within regions. The Budget terminates Federal support for Amtrak’s long distance train services, which have long been inefficient and incur the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses. This would allow Amtrak to focus on better managing its State-supported and Northeast Corridor train services.”

“Limits funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program (New Starts) to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only. Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”

“Eliminates funding for the unauthorized TIGER discretionary grant program, which awards grants to projects that are generally eligible for funding under existing surface transportation formula programs, saving $499 million…. Further, DOT’s Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects grant program, authorized by the FAST Act of 2015, supports larger highway and multimodal freight projects with demonstrable national or regional benefits. This grant program is authorized at an annual average of $900 million through 2020.”

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