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Trump’s proposed budget has good, bad for the area


Published: Thu, March 16, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

There’s one thing we know for sure about President Donald Trump’s first budget being unveiled today: You won’t hear Republicans in Congress say the spending blueprint is a nonstarter. That was the reaction of many in the GOP to former Democratic President Barack Obama’s budgets for most of his time in office.

Today, however, the occupant of the White House is a Republican who marched to his own drummer during last year’s primary and general elections and who has shown little interest in playing second fiddle to Congress.

But, as Republicans start delving into Trump’s budget, there’s bound to be pushback.

Indeed, if early previews are accurate, we could find ourselves facing the same dilemma as lawmakers because of clashing spending priorities.

For example, the Pentagon would be the big winner with a $54 billion boost to defense spending, according to the Associated Press. We have previously supported such as increase because the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, home to the 910th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve and Naval and Marine Corps Reserve units, could be a beneficiary of the additional funding.

We have consistently called on the Defense Department to upgrade the fleet of aircraft assigned to the 910th Wing. There currently are eight C-130H transport planes that need to be modernized to meet new domestic and international flying standards.

There are two options: install new avionics in the C-130H planes, or replace the aircraft with the new C-130J models. We have urged the Defense Department to assign the new C-130Js to the Vienna Township base. By every measure, the sprawling facility adjacent to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport is one of the best maintained, most efficiently operated military installation in the nation. Indeed, it has been shown to give the American taxpayers the biggest bang for their dollars.

Concerns

But while we look forward to more defense money flowing into the Valley, we do have concerns about other aspects of the president’s budget.

According to the Associated Press, Republicans who have looked at early versions of the spending blueprint have groused about some preliminary plans, such as the elimination of the $3 billion community development block grant program.

These grants are a virtual lifeline for many cities, including older urban centers such as Youngstown. Republican lawmakers are not keen on the seeing the program eliminated, just as they aren’t happy with the reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget could be slashed by 25 percent, which would result in the elimination of 3,000 jobs.

And of particular interest to the state of Ohio, President Trump is reportedly planning to scuttle a $300 million a year program to make sure the Great Lakes are great. The 97 percent cut in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would be a major blow to efforts to clean up and protect the world’s largest surface area of fresh water.

There is bipartisan support in Ohio’s congressional delegation, led by Sens. Rob Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, to push back against any reduction in funding for the Great Lakes.

Brown said in a statement that he’ll “fight like hell in the Senate to restore this funding in full,” while Portman, who is co-chairman of the Great Lakes caucus in Congress, is calling on the new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to keep the $300 million in place.

Portman serves on the Senate Finance Committee and is ideally suited to make the case to his Republican colleagues for protecting the Great Lakes.

If the Trump administration needs proof of the delicate nature of the lakes’ ecosystem, it should study the 2014 water crisis in Toledo where more than 400,000 people were left without drinking water that comes from western Lake Erie.

Toxic algal bloom was caused by runoff from fertilizer and animal waste on farms, among other things.

It is noteworthy that the president’s spending plan submitted to Congress today is limited to the discretionary, $1 trillion portion of the $4 trillion annual budget that pays for Cabinet agencies and departments.

In addition, Trump’s proposals on taxes, mandatory spending and deficits and projections on the economy won’t come out until May.

The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.


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