On March 25, President Donald Trump expressed support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to be fully funded in a Grand Rapids rally. This turnaround came after an initial 90 percent budget cut for the initiative as outlined in the 2020 budget plan for congressional approval just weeks before. In the 2020 budget plan released March 11, Trump proposed to cut the $300-million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by $270 million.

During the Grand Rapids rally last Thursday, Trump said he would get funding for the initiative because he supports the Great Lakes.

“I support the Great Lakes,” Trump said. “Always have. They are beautiful. They are big, very deep. Record deepness, right? And I’m going to get, in honor of my friends, full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which you’ve been trying to get for over 30 years.”

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was started in 2010 and received $475 million in 2010 at the peak of the program’s funding. According to the Initiative’s website, GLRI has received a funding amount of at least $283.5 million annually until 2017.

In the president’s initial 2020 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency, the 2020 budget for GLRI is reduced to $30 million, a 90-percent cut of $270 million from its $300 million budget for 2019.

Michigan state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, condemned the initial budget cut for GLRI and Special Olympics in a phone interview with The Daily.  

“The budget (Trump) proposed is full of problems,” Rabhi said. “Not just the elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative monies, but also the reduction of the Special Olympics funds.”

Despite so, a fully funded GLRI bodes well for bipartisan support of environmental protection but still attracts worries from Democrats.

LSA sophomore Kate Nachazel, vice president of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, said she feels the change is positive.

“I’m glad he is doing that,” Nachazel said. “I think that the right people in the right positions put pressure on him.”

LSA sophomore Camille Mancuso, communications director for the University’s chapter of College Democrats, has concerns about the attitude of Trump’s administration towards environmental protection despite the change.

“Regardless that the initiative being fully funded, we should really be focused on the fact that it was proposed to be defunded altogether,” Mancuso said. “This is the president’s third attempt to cut funding for the Great Lakes, which really shows that protecting the environment … is not a priority of this administration.”

Rabhi agreed that despite a positive change for environmental protection, long-term decisions affecting many are not thoroughly considered by the administration.  

“While I am glad that we can use more funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, I think his inability to comprehend what is important and what isn’t,” Rabhi said.

Rabhi attributed the swift budget cut to the insufficiency of a smaller tax in supporting the federal budget.

“There (are) cuts now that we have to make for the federal budget because of his short-sighted tax policy which granted millions of dollars of tax breaks for businesses on the backs of our federal budget,” Rabhi said.

According to Rabhi, both the initial budget cut and the recovery of full funding for the initiative has disrupted people’s livelihoods.

“People’s jobs are on the line here,” Rabhi said. “There (are) so many implications this small, tiny amount of money has huge implications, not just for Michigan but all across Great Lake states.”

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