President's Budget Reveals Major Cuts and Priorities
As expected, the document proposes to increase Defense Department spending by $52 billion offset by reductions to domestic programs in the same amount (many in DOT, Interior, EPA and Energy) while leaving Social Security untouched. As is usually the case with a president’s budget request, the proposal is largely considered “DOA” in Congress, however the document sends important signals on where the Administration stands on many pending environmental, social and fiscal issues.
The President proposes to eliminate 66 federal programs across a range of issue areas including some programs important to many
CONEG states, most notably HHS’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program and State Energy Program, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant, and the Northern Border Regional Commission.
Of interest to
CONEG, the President requests $636M in new funding (a 60% cut from FY2017 funding and a 28 percent reduction in staff) for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and eliminates WAP and SEP “due to a departmental shift in focus away from deployment activities and towards early-stage R&D for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.” Funding for solar energy programs would be reduced from $241M to $69.7 million (71 percent cut) and wind energy research would decline to $31.7 million from $95.27 million (67 percent cut). DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy and Office of Fossil Energy are also slated for cuts of 31 and 54 percent respectively and funding for ARPA-E would be reduced by 93 percent from $290 million to roughly $20 million.
The budget proposes selling-off half of the 700-barrell Strategic Petroleum Reserve but maintains the 1 million barrel inventory of ultra-low sulfur distillate in the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve. Some energy proposals, such as opening up ANWR to drilling (estimated to generate $1.8 billion over ten years) have failed in Congress in previous years and are not likely to move anywhere this year.
EPA funding is targeted for a hefty 31 percent cut, and as expected the ENERGY Star energy efficiency program is targeted for elimination.
In transportation, the budget proposes a 12.7 percent cut to discretionary transportation funding and proposes the elimination of the popular TIGER infrastructure grants program and proposes that projects be funded through existing formula programs.
The budget slashes funding for Amtrak’s long-distance trains by $630 million and points to the long-distance trains’ poor on-time performance, relatively low ridership and continued operating losses. The document suggests that Amtrak focus on its profitable Northeast Corridor service.
The budget provides $1.23 billion for Transit New Starts (a $928 million cut) and limits funding to only those projects that have Full Funding Grant Agreements in place. Funding for FAA’s Essential Air Service would also be reduced by $175 million.
The Administration quietly included in the budget a
six-page fact sheet
on the President’s $1 trillion infrastructure package that proposes a $200 billion 10-year investment in infrastructure but does not provide details on how the funding would be allocated or paid for. A legislative proposal is expected from the Administration this summer.
As members continue to examine the details of the President’s budget, the FY2018 appropriations process is already far behind schedule. Neither chamber has drafted a budget resolution that would set top-line spending totals and allow appropriators to begin marking up their spending bills. However, Congress is unlikely to pass a FY2018 budget resolution until they pass the healthcare replacement bill; otherwise the healthcare bill will lose the filibuster protection provided by the current FY2017 budget reconciliation. Budget negotiations are expected to be difficult and slow.
have weighed in with their views on President Trump’s budget.