Trump’s first budget plan would hit Washington state hard, top Democrats say

By:  Rob Hotakainen
Source: The Bellingham Herald

President Donald Trump’s first budget — a $1.15 trillion plan that aims to “make America great again” — would hit Washington state hard, causing deep cuts in most domestic programs, the state’s top political leaders said Thursday.

Washington state Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said the plan contained few specific details but that he had asked state agencies to review it to see how state services would be affected.

But Inslee said he’s expecting big reductions in federal spending on education, housing, health care, job training and economic development programs.

“The president’s proposal trades away the support needed to build a prosperous economy for working families to instead pay for tax cuts for the wealthy,” Inslee said.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation had little to say about the budget plan, while Democrats were quick to criticize it.

Sen. Patty Murray declared the proposed budget “an absolute non-nonstarter,” while freshman Rep. Pramila Jayapal said it would jeopardize funds to clean up Puget Sound.

“This budget is a direct attack on workers, families, women, seniors, and the middle class and it represents just the latest of the many broken promises from President Trump,” Murray said.

Jayapal, a member of the House Budget Committee, said Puget Sound recovery efforts could get hit by big cuts proposed for the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It makes abundantly clear that every critical domestic program important to working families is on the chopping block,” she said.

Rep. Derek Kilmer called the plan “irresponsible and unserious,” saying that 3,200 people who work in the region’s shellfish industry would be hurt by cuts to Puget Sound funding and clean water programs.

With its large military presence, Washington state could benefit from the president’s plan to increase defense spending by 10 percent, adding $52 billion to military spending.

And the state’s veterans could emerge as another potential winner, with the Department of Veterans Affairs pegged to receive a 5.9 percent spending increase.

But Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said Trump wants to pay for those increases by making the largest cuts to discretionary federal programs and agencies in decades.

“National security encompasses much more than defense. Increasing the defense budget at the expense of non-defense spending is unacceptable,” he said.

Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell objected to a proposed cancellation of a scheduled insurance premium rate cut for Federal Housing Authority-insured mortgages.

Cantwell said the cut could help encourage more first-time home-ownership in higher-priced markets such as Seattle, saving some home buyers an average of $500 per year.

Republicans in the state’s delegation were in no rush to weigh in on the president’s plan.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, planned to get “a more detailed perspective” as the Trump team made its case for the budget in coming months.

“Jaime will take a close look at the budget released today, since the power of the purse ultimately lies with Congress,” said Amy Pennington, her spokeswoman.

And Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse said he was both “encouraged” by Trump’s plan to increase military spending but concerned by proposed cuts to the departments of Energy, Agriculture, Interior and other agencies that he said are “important to western communities.”

“I look forward to working with the administration through the congressional budget and appropriations processes to address these issues,” Newhouse said.

On immigration, an important issue to Washington’s agriculture community, Trump includes billions to crack down on people living in the United States without documentation.

In addition to the $4.1 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump has allocated for the Department of Homeland Security $1.5 billion to construct and expand new detention facilities, $1.5 billion to improve security for government computer networks, $314 million to begin hiring 1,500 immigration agents and $15 million to implement a nationwide worker verification system that allows business to determine whether new hires are eligible to work in the United States.

Trump has also allocated $80 million to the Department of Justice to hire 75 additional immigration judges. He also wants to hire 60 additional border enforcement prosecutors and 40 deputy U.S. Marshals to help apprehend and prosecute immigrants here illegally who have committed crimes.

Trump’s budget, however, reduces aid for state and local governments for incarcerating immigrants who are in the country illegally.

His budget also cuts money for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to state and local governments. It eliminates money for several programs, including Community Development Block Grants, which helps pay for neighborhood improvements and low-income energy assistance.