Update from Washington, D.C.
Trump Administration Releases Fiscal Year 2020 Budget
March 14, 2019
The Trump administration released an outline of its fiscal year 2020 budget proposal this week. As expected, Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate have declared the plan “dead on arrival,” with a number of Republicans also expressing skepticism over various portions of the fiscal blueprint. Given the divided Congress and the political climate ahead of next year’s presidential election, the document will serve as more of a symbolic representation of the president’s policy priorities than the actual starting place for spending decisions within the context of the fiscal year 2020 appropriations process.
It should be noted that the budget outline lacks specific details on most individual spending programs, though it does specify certain programmatic areas that the administration would like to see increased, or, in some cases completely eliminated. The administration’s complete fiscal year 2020 budget proposal, with line-by-line program numbers, is expected to be released on March 18.
To follow are several key aspects of the White House’s budget outline.
- While defense spending would increase by roughly four percent, the proposal calls for reducing non-defense discretionary spending from $597 billion in the current fiscal year to $543 billion – a nine percent cut. When disaster-relief funding is factored in, the total domestic spending reduction proposed by the administration would amount to a roughly five percent decrease.
- Several cabinet-level departments and stand-alone agencies would bear the brunt of the administration’s proposed spending reductions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the Departments of Transportation (DOT), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Health and Human Services (HHS), would see double-digit percentage cuts (EPA – 30 percent; DOT – 21 percent; HUD – 16 percent; HHS – 12 percent).
- Along with Defense, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs, would receive increases in fiscal year 2020. As part of the DHS budget, the president is requesting $8.6 billion for southwest border wall construction activities, setting up another likely showdown with Congress over this particular issue.
- In the area of entitlements, the budget proposes a total of $2.1 trillion in long-term cuts to mandatory safety net programs, including cuts to Medicaid – via the creation of a Medicaid block grant – as well as proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The administration also is proposing to give states the option to receive foster care funding in a flexible block grant.
In the aftermath of the release of the Trump budget request, several House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees held hearings this past week on the fiscal year 2020 spending plan. Additional hearings will be held in the coming weeks, with the process of writing the 12 annual appropriations bills expected to commence sometime next month.
Infrastructure Hearings Continue on Capitol Hill
The House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee held a hearing yesterday entitled “Aligning Federal Surface Transportation Policy to Meet 21st Century Needs.” The hearing was the latest in a series of committee-level discussions regarding the importance of modernizing the country’s infrastructure.
Testifying before the subcommittee were a number of representatives of state and local government, as well as transportation industry representatives. A common theme among witnesses was the need to preserve and further strengthen the federal-state-local partnership that is enshrined in current surface transportation law (the FAST Act), as well as the need to shore up the Highway Trust Fund in order to provide certainty with regard to future federal investment in highway and transit programs.
It should be noted that a wide-ranging infrastructure package is expected to originate in the T&I Committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who, per House rules, is allowed to designate the top ten bill numbers in the chamber, has reserved HR 2 for the eventual legislative package. According to committee leaders, HR 2 will begin to move through the committee later this spring.
For copies of witness testimony and/or to watch an archived webcast of the hearing, please click here.