Trump’s budget: $320M for Great Lakes, big Medicare cuts

By: and - February 11, 2020 3:30 pm

Lake Michigan via Canva

President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget plan has a big change from last year’s proposal when it comes to Great Lakes funding.

His FY 2021 proposal includes $320 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which helps clean up the lakes, protect them from invasive species and preserves them as a safe source of drinking water.

Last year, Trump proposed a 90% cut from $300 million to just $30 million. That was opposed by Michigan leaders in both parties, including U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland).

During his first year in office, Trump sought to eliminate funding for the program entirely. In 2018, Trump also suggested cutting funding from $300 million to $30 million.

Last week, the Democratic-led U.S. House passed bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the GLRI. The bill hiked funding in Fiscal Year 2022 from $300 million to $375 million. The increase will grow by $25 million each year until it reaches $475 million in FY 2026. Peters and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) have sponsored companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

The Michigan U.S. House delegation voted 13-1 in favor of H.R. 4031, with only Cascade Township U.S. Rep. Justin Amash — the chamber’s lone independent — voting no. Amash’s spokesperson said that he was concerned about increasing the debt.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) praised Trump for including full GLRI funding in his budget plan.

“This is exciting news for the Great Lakes and for everyone who calls southwest Michigan home, and I commend the Administration for proposing significant resources for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” Upton said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t mess with the Great Lakes. These resources are needed to keep Asian carp and other invasive species out of our Great Lakes, to ensure that our water is clean and safe, and to maintain the beauty of these Lakes for generations to come.”

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

Huizenga noted that he and U.S. Reps. John Moolenaar (D-Midland) and Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) made their case for GLRI funding to Trump while he was doing a campaign rally in Grand Rapids last March.

Good News! The President’s FY21 Budget fully funds the #GLRI! This bipartisan program is critical to preserving & protecting the Great Lakes. Last year, @RepJackBergman, @RepMoolenaar, & I discussed the importance of the GLRI w/ POTUS. This budget delivers on his promise to #MI!” Huizenga wrote on Twitter Monday.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not fare well, with Trump’s plan slashing the regulatory office by 26%. Almost 50 EPA programs would be scrapped, which critics said would hurt efforts to stop invasive species and protect clean air and water.

Stabenow said Trump’s budget “fails to adequately invest in the Soo Locks and puts our Great Lakes at risk of invasive species like Asian carp by not investing in the Brandon Road Lock and Dam project. President Trump’s budget fails to meet our Michigan test for what is important.”

Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid cuts

Overall, Trump is seeking to chop $4.4 trillion in spending over a decade. Non-defense spending would see a 5% cut.

There are big health care cuts, as the Washington Post reports:

Medicaid, the safety-net insurance for low-income Americans, would receive nearly $920 billion less than otherwise anticipated by 2030 as federal health officials encourage states to create work requirements and tighten eligibility checks. And a “health reform vision allowance” would lower spending on the Affordable Care Act by $844 billion over the decade.

For Medicare, the federal insurance for older and disabled Americans, the plan would curb spending by $480 billion over the decade, primarily through proposed cuts in payments to doctors and hospitals.

While seniors won’t see cuts to Social Security under Trump’s plan, there are cuts to eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.

“What he has proposed is a real threat to the health and economic security of all Americans and abandons the bipartisan, long-term budget agreement he signed in August,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn). “In front of Congress and the nation, President Trump promised in his State of the Union to protect Medicare and Social Security. Yet, his budget proposes cutting half trillion from Medicare and $24 billion to Social Security. The Trump administration is choosing to hurt millions of hardworking men and women.”

Overall, there’s an almost 10% cut to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Support for vouchers, student loan programs slashed

Trump’s budget would offer tax breaks for private school tuition. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a West Michigan billionaire, has long since championed voucher programs. Although the DeVos family was unsuccessful in enacting them in Michigan, they’ve been active in school reform efforts across the country.

Trump’s plan also slashes student loan programs. DeVos’ Education Department has long been fighting student loan forgiveness efforts.

Democratic presidential candidates like U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have supported efforts for free college tuition and to wipe out student debt.


Lordstown loan program

The effort to transform the General Motors Lordstown Assembly plant in Ohio into a new home for electric vehicle production is seen by many as helping to revitalize an entire region. To the Trump administration, that effort is “costly” and “wasteful” for the federal government to meddle with.

The budget suggests eliminating a $200 million investment to the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program — the program meant to allow Lordstown Motors to reshape the old General Motors plant and turn it into an assembly line for electric vehicles. 

Ohio’s political leaders have championed the new company, which is expected to bring back hundreds of jobs lost by GM’s decision to close Lordstown Assembly in early 2019. The new EV production line will accompany a high-scale joint venture between GM and a South Korean company to build EV batteries in the Lordstown area. 

The GM Lordstown Plant on November 26, 2018 in Lordstown, Ohio. GM said it would end production at five North American plants including Lordstown, and cut 15 percent of its salaried workforce. | Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Now, those same leaders are joining together to keep the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program alive.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) represents Northeast Ohio and is among those calling for the funding to stay put. 

“Instead of using the power of the White House to help Lordstown Motors get up and running, President Trump announced his intention on Monday to kill the very loan program that Lordstown Motors has said is critical to their business,” Ryan said in a statement. “This isn’t a hand-out, this is a loan that will be repaid in-full with interest.”

Tim Ryan after the first debate | Andrew Roth

In January, a bipartisan group of legislators, including Ohio U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, signed a letter expressing strong support for the loan program. 

The Trump administration was apparently unmoved.

“The Budget further protects taxpayers by eliminating costly, wasteful, or duplicative programs,” a section of the proposal reads. “The private sector has the primary role in taking risks to finance the deployment of commercially viable projects and Government’s best use of taxpayer funding is in earlier stage [research and development].”

Part of this story originally ran in the Advance‘s sister publication, the Ohio Capital Journal.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.

Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist with the Ohio Capital Journal who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.