Michigan moving to settle unemployment false fraud lawsuit, setting aside $20M

Trump budget again slashes aid to Great Lakes cleanup program

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Trump’s 2017 tax cut bears much of the blame, along with sharp increases in spending for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies and the growing federal retirement costs of the baby boom generation

Washington — President Donald Trump's latest budget proposes a 5 percent reduction in non-defense spending, including a 90 percent cut for a popular Great Lakes cleanup program that bipartisan Michigan lawmakers pledged to fight. 

Funding for the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would be cut by $270 million to $30 million under the budget released Monday — the third year in a row the Trump budget team proposed cuts to the program. 

A senior administration official told reporters Monday that regional economic programs "are primarily state and local activities and should be funded as such."

A budget summary provided by the White House says the spending plan provides support for basin-wide monitoring of the watershed, including efforts to track and address harmful algal blooms and invasive species, while supporting "cooperative federalism by building state and local capacity to conduct monitoring."

In previous years, Congress, which controls spending levels, has restored full funding for the Great Lakes program.

Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga, who co-chairs the House Great Lakes Task Force, said he would work with bipartisan colleagues to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative again.

“It is vital that protecting and preserving the Great Lakes remains a national priority," said Huizenga of Zeeland.

"While there are several improvements in the president’s budget proposal from last year, it fails to properly fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). This critical program has helped clean up legacy pollution, restore habitat, and prevent the spread of invasive species.”

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing agreed.

"The Trump administration just doesn't get it and is once again gutting funding for the Great Lakes," said Stabenow, who co-chairs the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. 

"Just like last year, and the year before, the people of Michigan will make their voices heard and I will lead the bipartisan fight to restore every penny."

Expect bipartisan protection

Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said the administration can expect "a strong, bipartisan, Michigan-led effort" to protect the program. 

"We have fought tooth and nail to stop these cuts before," Upton said. "Putting funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative on the chopping block is a terrible idea and will not stand."

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said the proposal to nearly eliminate funding for the program would hurt Michigan's ability to clean, preserve and restore its waterways.

"Just as I did before, I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure Congress fully funds the GLRI and that these proposed reductions never see the light of day," Peters said.

The Great Lakes reduction is part of a 31 percent or $2.8 billion decrease in proposed funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2019 levels to nearly $6.1 billion for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

"We believe that $6 billion at a time of $1 trillion deficits is something that is affordable for the country," the senior administration official said.

"That $6 billion allows us to be able to protect the environment and to fulfill all of our statutory responsibilities to have clean air, clean water and to ensure that we preform according to the statutes the congress has given us."

Cleanup programs for the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay were the only ones to receive some funding under the proposal. Other geographic programs were eliminated. 

Trump's budget seeks to boost defense spending, including a request for $8.6 billion to complete his wall on the border with Mexico — $3.6 billion of which would come from military construction accounts.

The White House envisions reforms to the welfare system to generate $327 billion by expanding work requirements.

The mandates would apply to individuals ages 18 to 65 participating in programs including food stamps, Medicaid, housing programs and Temporary Assistance for Need Families cash assistance, with available hardship waivers, according to the White House. 

MSU gets FRIB aid

The U.S. Department of Energy's $31.7 billion spending plan includes $40 million to complete of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams — a physics research center at Michigan State University projected to create 1,000 permanent jobs.

The department also seeks to eliminate the federal tax credit for electric vehicles in an effort to save more than $2.5 billion over 10 years.

The Trump administration has also proposed eliminating an unused manufacturing loan program, created in 2007, meant to help auto and parts manufacturers retool plants to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Energy Department has budgeted $1 million to cover loan portfolio monitoring and administrative expenses under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program but wants to shut down the loan office next fiscal year.

Like last year, the administration wants to ax the home-energy program for low-income households, and Community Development Block Grants. 

In recent years, Michigan has received about $150 million a year in federal funding for energy assistance, which is usually used to pay for home heating credits, weatherization and crisis intervention. 

Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, blasted a proposed 15 percent or $3.6 billion cut to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Just months after the president signed the historic bipartisan farm bill into law, his budget proposal rolls back much of this critical support for agriculture and rural America," she said.

"The steep cuts to the USDA would jeopardize the department’s ability to implement the farm bill at a time when farmers are struggling with economic instability and trade uncertainty."

The budget does invest in a major priority for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos by proposing a $5 billion school choice initiative that would provide federal tax credits for donations to nonprofit organizations at the state level.

The so-called Education Freedom Scholarships would provide extra funding to boost public and private school choice options. 

“I look forward to working with Congress to pass a budget that truly puts the needs of students, parents, teachers and local leaders first, because it is my sincere belief that if we give them the freedom to break free from the one-size-fits-all ‘school system,’ we will truly begin to unleash our nation’s full potential," DeVos said in a statement.