Reps. slam Trump budget wiping out Great Lakes funding by 90%

By: - March 11, 2019 9:11 pm

Lake Michigan | Susan J. Demas

Updated at 8:05 p.m. with U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga’s comments.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday issued his latest proposal to dramatically scale back funding for Great Lakes cleanup programs.

In his fiscal year 2020 budget request, Trump suggested cutting federal spending for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from its current level of $300 million to just $30 million.

This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has proposed slashing the Great Lakes cleanup program. During his first year in office, Trump sought to eliminate funding for the program entirely. And in 2018, he suggested cutting funding from $300 million to $30 million.

But as with many of the proposed cuts outlined by the White House, Congress refused to comply with the president’s request. The Great Lakes restoration program received $308 million in the fiscal 2018 budget and $300 million in the fiscal 2019 budget.

Members of Congress who support the program — including Republicans and Democrats from Michigan — say they’re prepared to oppose the president again to keep those funds in place.

“For the third year in a row, I will join colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fight the Administration’s proposed budget cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) said Monday in a statement.

“We have fought tooth and nail to stop these cuts before. You can expect a strong, bipartisan, Michigan-led effort to once again protect every penny of this critical program, and we will prevail. Putting funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative on the chopping block is a terrible idea and will not stand.”

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) also slammed the move.

“This can’t happen — our lakes need to be protected,” he wrote on Twitter. “The GLRI needs full funding to help protect our Great Lakes which are integral to our economy and provide drinking water to millions of Michiganders and folks across the Midwest. I’ll work with both parties to ensure these cuts never see the light of day.”

U.S Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), whose West Michigan district borders Lake Michigan, called the GLRI a “critical program” and vowed to work in a bipartisan manner.

“It is vital that protecting and preserving the Great Lakes remains a national priority. While there are several improvements in the President’s budget proposal from last year, it fails to properly fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” he said. “This critical program has helped clean up legacy pollution, restore habitat, and prevent the spread of invasive species. As the Republican chair of the Great Lakes Task Force, I will continue to work with both Republicans and Democrats to fully fund the GLRI and protect both the economy and the ecology of the Great Lakes.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) agreed and also assailed Trump’s $845 billion in cuts to Medicare and $241 billion slashing of Medicaid, as well as his inclusion of $8.6 billion in funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border.

“Escalating the deficit while making cuts to critical programs such as Medicare and Medicaid don’t make us more competitive and hurts people,” Dingell said.

“Our seniors are already struggling to afford their medications and long-term care. Calling for hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts – which the President promised not to touch – makes it harder for Americans to live healthy lives with dignity. It’s wrong and I’ll fight these cuts with every ounce of my being.”

Trump’s $4.75 trillion budget request proposes increased spending on military programs by $750 billion and funding for the creation of a “Space Force.” But he recommends $2.7 trillion in cuts to domestic programs.  The Environmental Protection Agency would see its overall budget cut by about 31 percent.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Trump’s suggested cuts “cruel and short-sighted.” She added, “House Democrats will reject this toxic, destructive budget request which would hollow out our national strength and fail to meet the needs of the American people.”

Rick Scott

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called the budget “dead on arrival and divorced from reality.”

Some congressional Republicans, however, lauded the president’s plan.

“I applaud the administration for prioritizing our military and veterans, education and reducing healthcare costs for American families,” said Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. “Additionally, the president’s focus on school safety and border security promotes a stronger and safer vision for America.”

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.