Bipartisan deal blunts Trump plan’s impact on agencies

Source: George Cahlink, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2018

President Trump today released a fiscal 2019 budget that would use new spending from last week’s budget deal to soften, although not eliminate, cuts to energy and environmental programs.

The $4.4 trillion fiscal 2019 request seeks to slash U.S. EPA by 34 percent, cut the Interior Department by 16 percent and reduce the Energy Department by 3 percent for fiscal 2019.

However, last week’s budget deal that boosted both defense and nondefense discretionary spending by a combined $300 billion over fiscal 2018 and 2019 would lessen the impact of those reductions.

The administration released a detailed addendum to the budget outlining where it would spend the extra dollars. It noted it would prefer that Congress only provide increases for defense.

“The administration does not believe these non-defense spending levels comport with its vision for the proper role and size of the federal government. However, we believe it is important to account for these higher non-defense spending levels in a responsible manner,” said the addendum.

Specifically, the administration outlined:

  • $727 million for EPA for Superfund and clean and safe drinking water programs, which would restore about one-third of the administration’s original cut to the agency.
  • $1.5 billion for the Energy Department, with the bulk for scientific research, which would wipe out a previously envisioned 3 percent cut.
  • $339 million for the Interior Department, split with much of it for the National Park Service, which would trim the overall decrease to the department to less than $2 billion.

A combination of new spending and last year’s tax cut would force the deficit to balloon to nearly $1 trillion ($984 billion) for fiscal 2019, documents show.

Lawmakers are likely to raise red flags about the deficit nearing the trillion-dollar threshold, but also over the administration breaking with long-standing conservative policy and opting not to outline a plan for balancing the budget in 10 years.

The budget seeks new revenue in areas that will affect energy and environmental programs, including $450 million by eliminating the borrowing authority of the Western Area Power Administration, $178 million by reforming Army Corps of Engineers inland waterways financing and $5 million by expanding EPA pesticide licensing fees.

The administration also released details with its budget of its long-awaited, $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. It would seek $200 billion in federal spending over the next 10 years, with the rest being generated by private investments and coming from state and local communities.

Congress is hoping to turn the bipartisan budget deal into an omnibus package for the rest of fiscal 2018 before turning fully to fiscal 2019 appropriations work.