This morning the Council held a brief discussion, led by the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, on what the Trump administration’s “skinny budget” proposal means for Seattle.
Holland and Knight, the city’s federal lobbyist, compiled a report on Trump’s budget proposal that formed the basis of this morning’s conversation.
Before we dive into that report, it’s important to note a couple of things. First, many of the details won’t be well understood until May when the Trump administration produces a detailed budget. Second, his proposal has already drawn broad opposition in Congress, which is important because Congress actually writes the budget, not the President. And a 1975 Supreme Court ruling held that the President cannot override the will of Congress by refusing to spend money that is appropriated for specific purposes by the legislative branch. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974 granted the President a specific means to request Congress to reconsider a specific budget line-item, but Congress has shown little willingness to entertain such requests from sitting Presidents. What that means is that Trump’s budget is more of a message about the tone of his administration and priorities than a specific, well-thought-through, budget that anyone expects to pass, and Trump will be forced to live with the budget that Congress eventually writes.
Ok, now for the bad news: here’s what his proposal says and what it means for Seattle:
- A $2.8 billion (6.8%) increase for the Department of Homeland Security, including $2.6 billion for border security infrastructure, technology, and the “wall;” 500 CBP officers and 1000 ICE law enforcement personnel; and expanded detention and removal of illegal immigrants.
- A small (3.8%) decrease to the Justice Department budget, but with a major shift in priorities toward increased law enforcement activities for preventing and prosecuting illegal immigration. That includes $80 million to hire 75 new immigration judge teams to adjudicate immigration removal proceedings.
- A cut of nearly $1 billion of federal funding for prison construction (read: increased reliance on the private, for-profit prison industrial complex).
- A rare bit of good news: a $9 million increase in DOJ funding for background checks on firearms purchases.
- A reduction of FEMA grant programs by $667 million. The exact list of programs is unclear, but it likely includes the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant program, the Transit Security Grant Program, and the Port Security Grant Program. It will also establish a 25% non-Federal match requirement for FEMA preparedness grants.
- A raise to the TSA Passenger Security Fee, which is tacked on to airline ticket prices, to recover 75% of aviation security operations
- EPA budget cut by $2.6 billion, including discontinuing the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs and research, Energy Star, and the Targeted Airshed Grants. also a substantial reduction to Categorical Grants for water, air, waste, pesticides, and toxic substances programs.
- A $2.4 billion (13%) cut in Department of Transportation for discretionary programs. That includes eliminating the TIGER grant program and limiting the New Starts program, which fund several Seattle transportation projects.
- Privatizes the FAA’s traffic control function.
- Restructures and reduces Amtrak’s subsidies.
- Cuts $1.5 billion (12%) from the Department of the Interior, though maintains $1 billion for water resource management in the western United States.
- Cuts $6.2 billion (13.2%) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Eliminates the Community Development Block Grant program, which funds several important projects in Seattle and King County.
- Cuts the Commerce Department by $1.5 billion (16%), in part by eliminating the Economic Development Administration, the Minority Business Development Agency, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and NOAA grants and programs (including the Sea Grant program).
- Cuts the Education Department by $9 billion (13%), and restructures spending to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s pet issues. Public-private school choice programs receive $1.4 billion, including $250 million for a new private school choice program. Also a $168 million increase for charter schools. It cuts funding for before-school, after-school, and summer programs to the tune of $1.2 billion. On the good side, it maintains support for the Pell grant program.
- Cuts the Labor Department’s budget by $2.5 million (21%). It “decreases Federal support for job training and employment service formula grants, shifting more responsibility to state and local governments.” It also eliminates OSHA training grants and closes some Job Corps centers.
- Cuts the Department of Energy’s budget by $1.7 billion (5.6%), shifting more money into nuclear capabilities. It eliminates the Weatherization Assistance Program and several programs to fund innovation in the energy sector.
- Eliminates the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
We’ll know more in May when the detailed budget proposal comes out, and even more when Congress begins work on the real budget, but suffice it to say that Trumps’ budget would be a bloodbath for Seattle. The city would lose funding for transportation, housing, homelessness programs, drug treatment programs, jobs programs, education, local public radio and TV stations, natural resource management, FEMA preparedness funding in an area prone to devastating earthquakes, environmental cleanup funding, and more. We’d see significantly stepped up enforcement of immigration laws with more deportations and a larger CBP/ICE presence.
Ironically, it would make Trump’s executive order holding back funding for so-called “sanctuary cities” a moot point, since much of the funding would be eliminated.