Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Trump budget, dead on arrival, would cut many programs that help rural areas, increase spending on veterans

Spending increases and decreases in President Trump's
proposed budget (Chart by The Washington Post)
Though the 2020 budget President Trump unveiled on Monday is dead on arrival in Congress, it's a good indicator of his priorities. "In short, Trump wants more spending on the military and veterans and less spending on education, housing, welfare, transportation and science," Heather Long reports for The Washington Post.

"USDA’s Rural Development branch is targeted for a 12 percent cut, and the bulk of rural housing and economic development programs would be scrapped altogether," Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's Morning Agriculture. "That includes funding for home repairs or direct home ownership loans for low-income families; initiatives to help farm workers find housing; and programs to preserve affordable housing in rural areas and help low-income residents pay rent."

The budget would cut USDA’s discretionary budget by $3.6 billion, "or 15 percent from the 2019 estimate, while also slashing by $17.4 billion the funds available to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program," formerly known as food stamps, Kate Rabinowitz and Kevin Uhrmacher report for the Post. "The budget would also reduce federal crop insurance subsidies, with a projected savings of $22.1 billion by 2029."

UPDATE: The cuts "drew consternation from growers and ranchers who are struggling through a multiyear slump in the U.S. farm economy, Jesse Newman reports for The Wall Street Journal. "The proposals were quickly dismissed by some farm-state lawmakers in Congress. The president’s proposed budget is seen more as a list of priorities than draft legislation. . . . Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue defended the president’s budget, saying the USDA would do its part to reduce federal spending while maintaining a safety net for farmers, hungry families and others."

The Department of Education would lose $8.8 billion in funding, Rabinowitz and Uhrmacher report. Trump proposes eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that pays off student loans for people who work in certain hard-to-fill areas, Long reports. That would make it harder for some high-need rural school districts to find teachers.

The budget would eliminate 29 education programs, including one that funds after-school aid, and one that provides impact aid, Andrew Ujifusa reports for Education WeekImpact aid helps school districts that have lost property tax revenue because of tax-exempt federal property, or who have experienced increased expenditures because they have to teach children who live on federal land such as Indian reservations or military installations that don't pay local property taxes.

The budget would cut $12.5 billion from the Interior Department, eliminating grants to help communities recover from mining operations on public lands and providing under $300 million for the National Park Service to deal with a $12 billion maintenance backlog. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs would receive a 7.5 percent funding increase. "This includes an increase of close to 10 percent for medical care for veterans, much of it to implement a law Congress passed last year to consolidate private-care programs outside VA and make private doctors easier for veterans to access," Rabinowitz and Uhrmacher report. "Other new spending would continue the agency’s massive modernization of its electronic health records, add mental-health services for suicide prevention and expand medical services to female veterans."

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