Trump's proposed budget cuts stir local concerns
The proposed $1.1 trillion budget proposal released by President Donald Trump Thursday, March 16, was greeted with howls of protests by Democratic leaders across the country — including Oregon — and many advocacy groups traditionally aligned with Democrats.
"This budget is an attack on our families' most essential needs, from the clean air and water we breathe and drink, to the schools our kids attend, to the very investments that create American jobs," said Democratic Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley.
The response was predictable, given that politically-active Democrats are opposing everything Trmp does these days. But even Republicans in Congress are panning parts of it. A look at how some of the proposed cuts could affect Oregon and the Portland region reveals genuine reasons for concern.
Among other things, Trump is proposing a a $54 billion increase in defense spending and corresponding cuts to non-defense spending at such domestic bureaus as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, and the wholesale elimination of other federal programs. Here are a few potential examples:
Affordable housing programs
Portland area affordable housing programs could be hard hit by the 13 percent cut that President Donald Trump is proposing in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If approved, the reduction would come as state, regional and local leaders are struggling with an affordable housing crisis that is increasing the number of homeless living on the streets.
Take Home Foward, formerly known as the Housing Authority of Portland, for example. Last year, HUD funds made up 74 percent of its $133 million budget.
"As to the effect of possible cuts, it really depends on what programs are targeted. We understand that at the federal level, the end result of the budgeting process can look very different than the president's proposed budget. With that said, communities like ours that are experiencing housing crises need more federal investments and any cuts will hurt the people we serve," says Home Forward Communication Director Tim Collier.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Cutting all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would cost Oregon Public Broadcasting 9 percent of its budget, threatening its reach across the state and Southwest Washington, and threatening such internationally and nationally produced shows as Masterpiece Theater, Frontline and All Things Considered, says Morgan Holm, OPB's senior vice president and chief content officer.
"Nine percent would be significant for us," says Holm.
At the same time, Holm says OPB supporters should not panic, at least not yet. Presidents have proposed eliminating all CPB funds in their budget in the past, including George W. Bush, who did so repeatedly. A bipartisan majority in Congress always restored most or all of them.
"This is an opportunity to once again remind our bipartisan supporters in Congress that we have a lot of bipartisan support across the country," says Holm, noting that a poll commissioned by the Public Broadcasting System in early January found that 73 percent of those surveyed opposed the elimination of federal funding for public TV. They included 83 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of independents and 62 percent of Republicans.
Division transit and development project
Trump is proposing to cut 13 percent or nearly $2.4 billion from the Transportatin Department. Speaking at a Let's Talk Climate forum last Thursday, Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat said that might scrap the plan to improve bus service and spark redevelopment along Division Street from Portland to Gresham.
TriMet will apply for $100 million in federal Small Starts program funding in August, with local governments proving the match $75 million match. Metro previously dropped the Powell Boulevard alignment to reduce costs and be more competitive for federal funding.
The proposed cut would not affect the light rail line in the Southwest Corridor project because TriMet will not apply for federal funds for that for many years.
Meals on Wheels
Trump is proposing to completely eliminate the 42-year-old Community Development Block Grants program, which operates under HUD. The $3 billion program supports numerous social welfare agencies, including Meals on Wheels, which provides free meals to seniors. Officials with the non-profit agency say it is too early to know the details, but says such a cut would be "significant." Other CDBG programs fund iemergency food assistance through food banks.
Low-Income energy assistance program
Trump is also proposing eliminating the $3.4 billion Health and Human Services program that helps elderly and poor people pay their heating and power bills. He also proposes eliminating the $715 million anti-poverty Community Services Block Grants program.
Oregon Children's Theatre
The National Endowement for the Arts is eliminated in Trump's proposed budget. It helps fund numerous nonprofit arts organizations, including Oregon Children's Theatre, which present full-stage theater production by children. Among other things, NEA funds help support the theater's Acting Academy classes for young people 3 to 18.
"Eliminating all federal funding for the NEA is short-sighted and counterproductive. The relatively small investment from the federal government in cultural agencies results in a large economic and cultural return for local communities across the country," said Democratic First District Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.
Oregon Department of Education
Trump is proposing cutting the U.S. Department of Education 13.5 percent or $9.2 billion. Numerous student loan and education assistance programs would be reduce. The Oregon Department of Education declined to comment on the effect of Trump's proposed budget until it has more information.
"We are carefully watching information on the President's proposed budget, but have not yet received official language/budget figures from which to comment," said ODE Director of Communications Tricia Yates.
Salam Noor, the head of the ODE, is heading to the nation's capital next week to meet with education Secretary Betsy DeVos as part of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Noor hopes to gain more information at that time, Yates said.