President Trump proposed a detailed budget May 23 that kept the themes of his March budget blueprint: steep cuts to science-based agencies, many headquartered in Montgomery County, and to programs to aid lower-income people, offset by sizable increases for defense and Homeland Security.
Compared with the 80-page budget released in March, the new spending plan for Fiscal Year 2018 (October 1, 2017-September 30, 2018) is a vast, eight-volume document with details on Trump’s proposals for every agency. Other subjects newly addressed include how the deficit would be affected, the major changes from previous budgets, revenue forecasts, and economic growth assumptions.
Given the size of the new document, reactions to it this week are only preliminary, with the meanings of many provisions yet to be unearthed by congressional review over the coming months.
If the proposed major cuts are enacted to Medicaid, food stamps (called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or “SNAP”), elderly and school nutrition, “It would be up to the County or state government or both to pick up the pieces,” said Joy Nurmi, special assistant to County Executive Ike Leggett. For instance, she predicted, if SNAP cutbacks are adopted, many people would go to food pantries such as Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg. Manna is partially funded by the County and the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg.
“A budget is a moral document,” reflecting a community’s values, Nurmi asserted. She called the Trump budget “completely morally corrupt.”
“I don’t think [Trump’s budget] will pass in any way, shape or form,” Nurmi added. She recalled that early in May, a federal budget for the rest of FY 2017 was enacted, featuring many Democratic priorities. The National Institutes of Health actually gained $2 billion in that action.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a key budget negotiator as a member of both the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committees, vowed to oppose much of the Trump budget which he said in a statement, “screams ‘Millionaires First, Working People Last.’”
He termed the detailed budget “an all-out assault on our health care system, [with proposed cuts to Medicaid and] the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program—leaving kids, veterans, individuals with disabilities and seniors out in the cold.” The Trump budget slashes funding for local priorities such as the Purple Line and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Van Hollen added.
Nurmi said the Trump proposal, if enacted, would pare County government revenues, not only directly through loss of federal grants, but also through loss of income taxes from employees laid off by federal agencies. The budget would harm the local economy, she added, because “out-of-work people don’t spend money.”
Here are summaries of the budget proposals for science-based agencies headquartered in Montgomery County.
At the National Institutes of Health, Trump proposed the same 19 percent reduction for NIH advocated in March. The new budget would cut all 22 existing institutes by amounts ranging from 12 percent to 30 percent, which also would apply to the NIH Office of the Director and the National Library of Medicine. Zeroed out would be the Fogerty International Center ($70 million) and a Type 1 diabetes program ($140 million). NIH would gain a new Institute for Research on Safety and Quality, as the Rockville-based Agency for Health Research and Quality would be transferred into NIH.
Three agency components of the Department of Health and Human Services, all based in the county, would suffer cuts. The Health Resources and Services Administration, which operates many specialized health programs such as clinics for low-income populations and care for HIV patients, would suffer an overall cut of 11.4 percent from $9.7 billion in FY 2017 to $8.6 billion in FY 2018. Trump also proposes to transfer HRSA’s largest program, the nationwide low-income clinics, from “mandatory” to “discretionary” funding, which would open the clinics to bigger cuts in future years.
Spending for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would fall by 9.3 percent, from $4.2 billion in FY 2017 to $3.8 billion in FY 2018. All the cuts would come from the “mental health side” of the agency, as amounts spent on substance abuse would stay the same in light of the opioid epidemic. A theme through many parts of the Trump budget is that “high priority” items are kept at the same FY 2017 spending levels, or proposed for small percentage increases or cuts.
The Trump budget appears to call for slashing the Food and Drug Administration by 42 percent from $4.7 billion in FY 2017 to $2.6 billion in FY 2018. Reauthorizations for FDA user fees, charged to drug and medical device companies for agency review of their proposed products, are pending in Congress this summer. Roughly doubling FDA user fee rates, as the Trump budget appears to call for, would make up the shortfall in FDA spending from taxpayer funds. Thus, the agency’s budget faces a period of high uncertainty over the next few months.
Two county-based agencies within the Commerce Department, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute for Standards and Technology, would suffer cuts of 8.5 percent and 15.3 percent, respectively. The spending levels would fall from $3.5 billion to $3.2 billion at NOAA, and from $717 million to $607 million, at NIST.
The Rockville-based Nuclear Regulatory Commission would be cut 5 percent, from $988 million in FY 2017 to $939 million in FY 2018.