Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trump's proposed federal budget calls for cutting or killing many programs that benefit rural areas

Proposed changes; click on image to enlarge (Washington Post)
Many federal programs that help rural areas would be eliminated or reduced under President Trump's proposed budget.

Some losers "may be some of the very constituencies that have been most supportive of the new president during his improbable rise to power," writes Peter Baker of The New York Times. If the cuts are enacted, "Rural communities will lose grants and loans to build water facilities and financing to keep their airports open." Federal support for long-distance Amtrak service, public broadcasting and the arts would also go away. So would the Appalachian Regional Commission and its smaller counterparts, such as the Delta Regional Authority and the Denali Commission.

Rogers with a Trump button at the
Republican National Convention.
Such ideas drew objection from Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky's 5th District, one of the nation's poorest and most rural. “I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive," said Rogers, chair of the House Appropriations Committee in 2011-16. "In particular, the Appalachian Regional Commission has a longstanding history of bipartisan support in Congress because of its proven ability to help reduce poverty rates and extend basic necessities to communities across the Appalachian region.” He concluded, “I am optimistic that we can work with the administration to responsibly fund the federal government, including those agencies which serve as vital economic lifelines in rural parts of the country that are still working to overcome substantial challenges.”

The plan, which covers only discretionary spending, calls for a 21 percent cut—or $4.7 billion—to rural programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cuts to USDA and other programs are being made to make room for proposed $54 billion increases in defense, $2.6 billion for a border wall and $1.4 billion for school choice. The plan would not reduce the federal deficit.

Kim Soffen and Denise Lu of The Washington Post note, "Discretionary spending limits, addressed by this proposal, are set by congressional budget resolutions. Congress typically makes changes to the president’s proposal—last year, lawmakers disregarded Obama’s budget altogether. Mandatory spending, by contrast, is set by other laws and is often determined by the size of the benefit and the eligible population."

The Trump administration "plans to eliminate its water and waste-disposal loan and grant program, which helps with rural water and waste infrastructure, for a savings of nearly $500 million," Jose A. DelReal reports for the Post. "It also will seek to eliminate aspects of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, which supports business development and job opportunities, because the administration called it 'duplicative.' That cut would save $95 million."

The budget document states: “Rural communities can be served by private sector financing or other federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s state revolving funds."

"The document says funding for the National Forest System will be reduced, but it does not indicate by how much; the administration is focused on 'maintaining existing forests and grasslands' rather than pursuing new land purchases," DelReal writes. The Forest Service is part of USDA. "The Agricultural Research Service might also face cuts to focus departmental research on 'the highest priority agriculture and food issues, such as increasing farm productivity, sustaining natural resources . . . and addressing food safety and nutrition priorities,' the document says. The budget also says the USDA will reduce staffing by an unspecified number at various service centers."

No comments: