Trump Administration Proposes Budget

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On May 23, 2017, President Donald Trump released his budget request for Fiscal Year 2018, which follows the blueprint, or “skinny,” budget released in March 2017. The proposal cuts funding for all federal departments except the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. The agency with the largest percentage decrease in funding is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Environmental Protection Agency

The proposal would reduce the EPA’s funding to $5.65 billion, a decrease of $2.6 billion, or 31% cut, from the FY17 enacted level and would include the elimination of about 20% of the workforce. Adjusting for inflation, this would represent the nation’s lowest funding for the agency since the mid-1970s.

The proposal calls for elimination of 50 EPA programs, including the Clean Power Plan— the Obama Administration regulation that would curb carbon emissions from power plants—and regional ecosystem protection programs, including the Chesapeake Bay program and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In March 2017, a bipartisan group in Congress sent a letter to House appropriators urging them to continue investment in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as it “is showing real and measurable results, but there is still a great deal of work to do.”

The budget request does, includes $2.3 billion, a $4 million increase from FY17 enacted levels, for the EPA’s State Revolving Funds, which provide low-interest loans for investments in water and sanitation infrastructure. The water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program received a request of $20 million, of which $17 million will be available for loans. WIFIA, which was enacted in the passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, is a program that provides low-interest loans for major—$20 million or more—drinking water or wastewater infrastructure projects.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Under the proposed budget, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would receive $5 billion, a $400 million increase from the previous Administration’s request of $4.6 billion, though it still represents a decrease of more than 16% from the FY17 enacted level. The Army Corps’ construction account would receive $1.02 billion, a 50% cut from the FY17 enacted level. Furthermore, its investigations account would be decreased by 29% from the FY17 enacted level, limiting its ability to start new water resources projects. The proposal calls for all revenue collected through the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to be used.

U.S. Department of Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) would receive $28 billion, a 5.6% decrease from the FY17 annualized CR level. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) would receive $646 million, a 70% decrease from the FY16 enacted level.

The proposal calls for elimination of the Title XVII clean energy projects loan program, the Energy Star program, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a bipartisan initiative that funds research into cutting-edge energy technology. In response to the budget proposal, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), released a statement saying “His budget proposes a staggering 70% cut to renewables and energy efficiency initiatives. This would devastate an emerging sector of our economy by killing thousands of clean-energy jobs all over the country…”

However, the budget does ask for an additional $1.4 billion, an 11% increase above 2017 annualized levels, for the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency focused on managing the nations’ nuclear weapons arsenal. It would also include $90 million to restart licensing of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada.

 U.S. Department of Transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) would receive $76 billion, a 4.5% decrease from the FY17 enacted level. The budget provides most of the funding authorized by the FAST Act, requesting all of the funds from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) but only about half of the authorized general funds (note: the $305 billion FAST Act included $70 billion of general funds). This results in the Administration requesting 96.2% of the FAST Act’s authorization for FY18.

Disappointingly the budget does include any proposals on fixing the HTF and assumes that starting in 2021 (when the FAST Act expires), HTF spending will match its revenue (i.e. no more general fund transfers). The Administration predicts this will decrease federal investment from the HTF by $95 billion from 2021-2027.

The DOT’s discretionary programs unsurprisingly saw much larger cuts as they rely on general funds. The Administration requested no money for the TIGER grant program, again signaling their intention to end the popular program, which had for the last three years been funded at $500 million annually. The budget requests $1.2 billion for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program (CIG), a sharp decline from the FY17 enacted level of $2.4 billion and the FAST Act authorized level of $2.3 billion. CIG is a competitive grant program that helps fund light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail, streetcar, and bus rapid transit projects. The Administration’s proposed funding level would allow for projects with signed and executed full funding grant agreements to be funded, but would likely not allow new funding agreements to be signed.

The budget proposes cutting funding for Amtrak in half, to $760 million for FY18. The Administration is proposing eliminating subsidies for long-distance routes, which would likely lead to their discontinuation.

Infrastructure Initiative

The budget included a request for $200 billion for President Trump’s infrastructure initiative and included a fact sheet outlining the Administration’s approach to fixing the nation’s infrastructure. The document says, “the Administration’s goal is to seek long-term reforms on how infrastructure projects are regulated, funded, delivered, and maintained. Providing more Federal funding, on its own, is not the solution to our infrastructure challenges. Rather, we will work to fix underlying incentives, procedures, and policies to spur better infrastructure decisions and outcomes, across a range of sectors.” Administration officials have previously stated a full infrastructure proposal will be released in the third-quarter of this year.

National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) budget request is $6.65 billion, a decrease of $840.5 or 11.2%.  The cut would mean reducing the number of new grants it can fund each year from 8,800 to 8,000. This is part of wider trend across the budget that would cut federal spending on basic research by 13%, or $4.3 billion, to $28.9 billion. Historically, the federal government has provided the bulk of the nation’s spending on fundamental science, defined as studies undertaken without specific applications towards processes or products in mind. In recent years, however, the share of basic research funding provided by the federal government has been slipping, from roughly 70% in the 1960s and 1970s to an estimated 44% in 2015.

Department of Energy Office of Science

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science is the single largest funder of the physical sciences in the United States. Spending for the office would fall 17% to $4.473 billion, the lowest level since 2008, not adjusting for inflation. The ax would fall on some research programs harder than others, however. In particular, DOE’s work on biological and environmental research would fall by 43%, as the administration cuts or eliminates much of DOE’s climate research.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would drastically cut into the agency’s climate research, closing many labs and programs. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), one of the agency’s primary research arms, would see its budget drop by 22%, from $514 million to $400 million. OAR’s climate-focused program would see a cut of $31 million, with $21 million of it taken from support for competitive research grants. The proposal would also eliminate the Air Resources Laboratory, ending its research on air chemistry, mercury deposition, and atmospheric dispersion of harmful materials. Development of an atmospheric model that has emergency response applications, including tracking mercury deposition and anthrax bioterrorism, would also end.

The agency would eliminate the Vortex-Southeast, a $5 million program used to detect, respond to, and warn against tornadoes in the Southeastern United States. The agency requested $1.058 billion for the National Weather Service, down 6% from 2017. Cutting $11 million for tsunami warning and eliminating support for preparedness and innovation research. The agency would also cut $5 million from its next-generation weather model, slowing the transition of advanced modeling research into operations. And it would save another $5 million by terminating all development, testing, and implementation of experimental products to extend operational weather outlooks … from 16 days to 30 days—a priority of the recent weather bill passed by Congress.

U.S.  Geological Survey

The budget requests $922.2 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, a cut of 14% or $137.8 million. Among the specific programs, the cuts include 26.3% for Climate and Land Use Change, 11.4% for Natural Hazards, 18.5% for water resources, and 20.7% for core science programs. The cuts to the hazards programs include eliminating federal support for ShakeAlert west coast earthquake early warning system, and reduces support for research on earthquake hazards assessments and research in area of moderate risk.

Department of Education

The 2018 Budget proposes $59 billion for the Department of Education, a $9 billion or 13%reduction. The budget proposal would eliminate entirely both the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program and the $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program,which provide funding for STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) instruction and teacher training.

 

 

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