White House unfurls $4.4 trillion budget plan for fiscal 2019

UPDATE — 2/15, 11:49 a.m. EST: Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has confirmed an Axios report that at a White House meeting with congressional lawmakers and administration officials Wednesday President Trump “offered his support” for raising the national gas tax by 25 cents to over 43 cents per gallon.

The funds would be dedicated to financing the president’s $200 billion infrastructure proposal, which would spur a $1.5 trillion total investment over the next decade to improve America’s transportation, energy, communication and water systems.

 

With $3 trillion in proposed cuts, increases to the military, and funding for a border wall, the White House released its budget request for the 2019 fiscal year on Monday.

On top of increases in military spending and a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, President Trump is calling for the elimination of 22 government agencies and programs.

Based on an optimistic 3 percent annual growth rate, Trump’s plan calls for a 7.4 percent increase in defense spending through 2027, a 41 percent drop in non-defense discretionary spending caps, and projects a budget deficit of $984 million for 2019.

Over the next decade, the Trump budget plan projects a reduction in annual revenues by 6 percent to $2.7 trillion, but does not project a balanced budget.

Included in the plan are increases to the the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Energy for fossil fuel research, a boost in funding for job training programs, and $2 billion for the National Institute of Health.  Additionally, the Trump budget seeks to increase funding for trade enforcement.

Despite some generous increases to some areas of federal spending, the budget outlines modest cuts elsewhere.  Federal agencies such as the Labor Department would see their budget cut by $2.6 billion, with cuts to the Job Corps and community activity programs.

Trump’s plan also targets the Obama Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, dramatically reducing its budget and placing a two-year cap at $485 million and curtailing its enforcement, which Trump says burdens industry and consumer choice.

“The president’s budget is just a nice book,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas). “It’s good to know where their priorities are, but the ones that make a difference are the ones here.”

Sharp cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency have also been requested, as well as the dismantling of programs which the White House says replicates the functions of other programs which the budget will maintain and fund.  The budget specifically eliminates programs focusing on climate change and pollution.  The EPA faces a 30 percent cut in funding.

Trump is also proposing $1.1 billion for school choice, with an increase of $500 million for voucher programs and expanding access to charter schools.  Despite $7.5 billion in savings, the proposal grants $43 million to fight opioid abuse.

Similarly, the administration wants to restructure terms under which Americans repay federal student loans.  Under Trump’s proposal, students repaying school debt would have their payments increased by 10 percent monthly, but undergraduate balances would be forgiven after 15 years.  Under current law, only private-sector employees have debt forgiven and only after 20–25 years.

Long a target of his ambition to dismantle the regulatory state, the annual budget further calls for continuing reductions in funding for Office of Financial Research, a bureaucracy created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul legislation.  Under Trump’s plan, the Wall Street watchdog will face a 40 percent cut in funding.

Trump’s budget calls for an end to funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, arguing PBS, associated radio and television programs and cultural art funding are not “core Federal responsibilities.”

Despite the proposed overhaul, many of the requested budgetary reforms are unlikely to be implemented.

“The Committee will perform our own analysis and craft legislation that reflects the will of the House and the needs of the people we represent,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the lower chamber’s appropriations committee.

 

[Reuters] [The Hill] [VOA] [Politico] [Photo courtesy Jonathan Ernst/Reuters via The Atlantic]

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