A little more than a month ago, the Trump administration released its proposed budget calling for the elimination of 19 agencies – including many of the country’s oldest anti-poverty programs. Cultural icons like the National Endowment of the Arts and Corporation for Public Broadcasting was targeted as well, and headlines of outrage cropped up all over the media.
Yet, Peter Hille, executive director of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, calmly said he’d been there before. It wasn’t the first time the Appalachian Regional Commission had turned up on the chopping block, and he was confident that members of the House and Senate from the region would defend the commission against Trump’s threats.
That appears to be exactly what happened.
Earlier today, House Democrats and Republicans approved a bill to fund the federal government through September. Instead of being eliminated, the Appalachian Regional Commission’s budget was actually increased from $146 million to $152 million.
“We appreciate the fact that our representatives in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, were willing to push back against the proposed cuts from the White House,” said Hille, who has been building projects in Eastern Kentucky with funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission for 27 years.
It turns out that, of the 19 proposed program eliminations in Trump’s budget, not a single one appears in the budget deal signed by House members today.
The National Endowment for the Arts got a small boost. The Community Development Financial Institutions fund, which helps local banks and credit unions serve low-income people, got a modest cut from $258 million to $248 million.
In fact, the main nods toward Trump’s agenda were a $15 billion boost in military spending and $1.5 billion for security along the border with Mexico. A frustrated Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “The reason for the plan negotiated between Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!”
This current budget runs until only September 2017. Meanwhile, lawmakers will negotiate the 2018 budget, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has suggested it will include more of Trump’s agenda. “When the fiscal year starts [at] the end of September, we will have an opportunity to really infuse the president’s priorities,” he said in a press briefing this week.
John Duda, the communications director for the Democracy Collaborative, which advocates for community economic development, says that those who oppose Trump’s spending priorities will need to organize during the summer.
“The real issue is going to be how the priorities expressed by the drastic cuts in the Trump budget influence and shape the FY2018 appropriations process,” he said.
The Democracy Collaborative has created an online tool to help people take action on this issue. The tool lists every community development program that’s threatened in the Trump budget and indicates which appropriations subcommittee is responsible for deciding how much money it will (or won’t) receive. The tool also lists all members of Congress who sit on each of those subcommittees, making it easy for the public to make sure their voices are heard.
“In theory, all of the budget legislation for FY18 will be done by October, so it is really in the next couple of months that these decisions will start to be made,” Duda said.