Trump releases revised budget that would significantly cut environmental programs

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - 10:42pm

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Zoey Holmstrom/Daily

 

President Donald J. Trump’s revised — and first complete — budget proposal, released Tuesday, sparked controversy among state officials and students, particularly with regard to spending cuts in higher education and environmental protections.

In terms of education, the proposal calls for a $9.2 billion spending cut, down 13.5 percent from 2017 — the same as in the March proposal.

According to The Atlantic, the cuts would terminate more than two dozen programs.

In a statement, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said the budget “reflects a series of tough choices we have had to make when assessing the best use of taxpayer money,” and "ensures funding for programs with proven results for students while taking a hard look at programs that sound nice but simply haven’t yielded the desired outcomes.”

The budget would eliminate the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, which provides need-based aid to 1.6 million undergraduates each year, though is sometimes considered subordinate to the Pell Grant program — the largest federal grant opportunity for low-income students — which is being extended through a year-round Pell program.

LSA senior Enrique Zalamea, president of the University of Michigan’s chapter of the College Republicans, does not view the cut as a loss, seeing as the program has been deemed inefficient.

“A large portion of this budget cut comes from the reduction of the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, an outdated program that gives money directly to colleges as opposed to low-income students,” he said in a March interview.

Cuts have also been made to the TRIO and GEAR UP programs, which serve to support low-income students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Seeing as the University has come under fire for low rates of socioeconomic diversity, LSA senior Rowan Conybeare, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said in a March interview the University’s diversity will be damaged without these programs.

“Low-income, first-generation and disabled students are unfortunately few and far between at UM,” Conybeare said. “Cuts to TRIO programs will only augment this issue.”

​After the release of the budget Tuesday, Conybeare echoed her earlier statement and continued disapproval of Trump's policies in a message to the Daily.

​"It is disappointment to hear that the president aims to further cut necessary and important programs, including higher education," she wrote.

The plan would also cut subsidized student loans by $1 billion and public service loan forgiveness, which effectively voids student loans if an individual works for the government or a designated nonprofit organization for 10 years, according to NPR.

In a message to the Daily, LSA junior Amanda Delekta, who is the vice president of internal affairs for the University chapter of College Republicans, said she is "optimistic" the budget will lead to better appropriation of spending.

"Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina said it best when he said President Trump's budget 'started a very important discussion,' " she said. "I am optimistic that President Trump's proposed budget will motivate our lawmakers to closely evaluate government spending and eliminate unnecessary costs."

In a statement Tuesday, Sen. Gary Peters expressed concern over spending cuts to programs that affect Michigan families and businesses, deeming the cuts “counterproductive” and calling on Congress to meet the needs of the middle class.

“Rather than investing in policies that promote manufacturing, support small businesses, strengthen education and drive our economy forward, President Trump's budget only offers counterproductive cuts that would stifle Michigan’s economic growth and strain the pocketbooks of Michigan families,” he said. “While Congress has a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently and effectively, any budget passed by Congress must address the needs of middle class families, seniors and small businesses.”

Similarly, in a statement, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.), said the budget does not reflect true American values, acknowledging cuts to specific programs, including Medicaid.

“By cutting billions from nondefense services, including programs like Medicaid, student aid and Meals on Wheels, this budget jeopardizes critical programs that help working families get ahead when times are tough — and frankly keep seniors alive — all while cutting taxes for the wealthiest and big corporations,” she said. “This is not who we are.”

The budget also puts forth cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, authored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2010. The GLRI aims to protect and restore the Great Lakes as well as control invasive species and reduce nutrient runoff, among other goals, according to its website.

In March, after the release of Trump’s budget blueprint, there was concern over such cuts to the program. However, a bipartisan effort, led by Stabenow, to restore funding for the fiscal year 2017 put an end to the concern in early May.

Stabenow reaffirmed the funding in a statement on Tuesday.  

“It’s official — President Trump’s 2018 budget zeros out funding for our Great Lakes,” she said. “Thanks to thousands of people across Michigan speaking out, we already stopped cuts for this year. This is a moment for Michigan when we all need to stand together to protect our Great Lakes.”

In her statement, Dingell also specified concern for cuts in such programs, emphasizing the importance of jobs and livelihood in the area, particularly with regard to the Environmental Protection Agency, which will see a funding cut of 31.4 percent, down $2.6 billion if the proposal passes Congress as it stands.  

“By virtually eliminating funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — the single most successful program cleaning up toxic pollution and combating invasive species — this budget jeopardizes the Great Lakes ecosystem, jobs and our way of life,” she said. “It is also disappointing that the President is moving forward with cuts that jeopardize current operations and jobs at the EPA National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Lab in Ann Arbor, which does critical work to reduce vehicle emissions and ensure the U.S. stays at the forefront of innovation.”

Earlier in May, Dingell addressed a crowd of media personnel and EPA employees outside the EPA office in Ann Arbor. She aimed to draw attention to severe cuts in EPA funding, but more specifically the closure of the lab — a part of the Ann Arbor facility that employs 435 people. Unique to Ann Arbor’s office, the facility provides emission testing services for engine programs and certifies vehicles and engines that meet federal emissions and fuel economy standards.

In a letter written in April, Dingell asked Trump to reconsider closing the facility. She reflected on the contents of her letter during the press conference — expressing gratitude and support for EPA employees.  

“To the employees — the working men and women here — the work you do here every single day keeps our air clean to breathe and keeps our nation on the cutting edge,” she said. “You are our true public servants and your work here has got to be protected.”

She also said the facility is the world’s “premier environmental compliance and transportation research center” — an opportunity for jobs in the country.

“This facility does critical work every single day to reduce the vehicle emissions and ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of innovation in this critical field, and that is critical to our staying competitive and creating jobs in this country,” she said.

In a message to the Daily Jacob Sigman, a recent University graduate who was part of LSA’s Program in the Environment, said the budget reaffirms environmentalists’ concerns.

“I think Trump’s worldview is made clear by his decision to cut the budget of the EPA by 2.6 billion dollars, a 31% cut,” he wrote. “Not only this but it would cut grants to state environmental programs by 500 million dollars. Federal clean up initiatives for the Great Lakes: cut. Energy star: cut. Clean power plan: gutted. When Trump came into office environmentalists knew the next 4-8 years would be an uphill battle. This budget confirms their worries. The big question now is: Will we stay in the Paris climate accords?”

​This article was updated to include a recent statement from Rowan Conybeare of College Democrats.