HEADLINE: Trump's budget plan risks loss of Great Lakes protection
On Monday, President Donald Trump released his 2020 budget plan for congressional approval. Almost immediately, the plan drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for its significant cuts to environmental funding. Specifically, Trump’s proposed plan would cut the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by $270 million and reduce EPA funding by over 30 percent. It also requested the allocation of $8.6 billion for Trump's proposed border wall.
In a press statement released Monday, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., condemned the 2020 budget plan for its disregard of the protection of natural resources.
“The Trump Administration just doesn't get it and is once again gutting funding for the Great Lakes,” Stabenow wrote. “Just like last year, and the year before, the people of Michigan will make their voices heard and I will lead the bipartisan fight to restore every penny.”
In the days since the plan’s proposal, Republicans across the Great Lakes region have joined House Democrats in their dissatisfaction with elements of the Trump administration's planned environmental policy, demonstrating bipartisan opposition to the budget plan. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., aligned with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., on the issue of environmental protection, denouncing Trump’s misallocation of federal funds in a press statement following the budget proposal.
“You can expect a strong, bipartisan, Michigan-led effort to once again protect every penny of this critical program, and we will prevail,” Upton said in a statement Monday. “Putting funding for the GLRI on the chopping block is a terrible idea and will not stand.”
Outside of its approach to environmental policy, Trump’s budget plan also drew criticism for reduced spending on Medicare and Medicaid at the expense of large-scale tax cuts.
In a statement released Monday, Dingell condemned the Trump plan for its cuts on federally funded social services.
“The President’s budget proposal released today is not the direction the country needs to be going,” Dingell wrote. “Escalating the deficit while making cuts to critical programs such as Medicare and Medicaid don’t make us more competitive and hurts people.”
LSA sophomore Camille Mancuso, communications director for the University’s chapter of College Democrats, agreed that Trump’s budget plan over-prioritized certain policy areas at the expense of environmental protection.
“This proposed budget increases funding for ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and ‘border security,’ which under this president means a border wall and holding families and children in detention centers which we have seen are essentially cages,” Mancuso said. “This border wall proposal has already contributed to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, and so our organization, in general, thinks that is one of the biggest over-projections of the budget.”
According to Mancuso, environmental protection is an issue many Michigan residents have been able to find common ground on, especially with regard to protection for the Great Lakes.
“Our organization is very diverse in ideology, but we do all agree on one thing, that protecting our environment, specifically the Great Lakes, but the environment in general, needs to be a priority,” Mancuso said.
Bipartisan opposition to Trump’s environmental budget cuts has been further demonstrated on the national level by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who, along with the governors of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois, formed a coalition to work with congressional delegations to protect Great Lakes funding.
In a press release discussing the newly formed coalition, Whitmer stressed the importance of maintaining protections for the region’s natural resources.
“The Great Lakes hold 21 percent of the world’s (surface) freshwater, and they are among the most vital ecological and economic resources in America,” the governor’s statement reads. “Slashing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by 90 percent would cost our states thousands of good-paying jobs, hurt our tourism and recreation industries, and jeopardize public health. This is a risk we simply can’t afford to take.”
LSA sophomore Kate Nachazel, vice president of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, explained that due to the central importance of the Great Lakes in the Midwest region, bipartisan support is likely to continue until the issue of GLRI funding is resolved.
“I don’t think this is just a Michigan issue,” Nachazel said. “Because Michigan isn’t the only state with access to the Great Lakes, I do think this is a national issue that should be federally funded. The entire Midwestern region will likely have bipartisan support to protect these resources because we live here and we know the implications.”
In light of this recent disillusionment with aspects of Trump’s budget plan, the proposal is unlikely to pass through Congress in its current form. In a tweet Monday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressed that the 2020 budget plan would lead to “a sicker, weaker America,” and would be rejected by House Democrats.
According to Nachazel, a successful budget must be able to reconcile the Republican desire for minimal government regulation with continued protections for the environment and natural resources.
“If the government is going to be involved in regulating anything, I think the environment is that space,” Nachazel said. “To take that away from such an important agency in our time now would be a mistake.”