Trump's budget proposes cuts in services for most vulnerable and in funding to states

Clark Biegler
Mar 28, 2017
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump released his budget outline for federal discretionary spending. (That's a fancy name for spending that Congress authorizes funding for each year.) It is lacking some key details, but here's what we know: it proposes dramatic cuts for services that support low-income people and it would drastically reduce funding for state and local services. The budget also includes $54 billion in increased funding for defense.

It's important to remember that the president's budget proposal is just the starting point in the federal budget process. The executive branch starts off the budgeting process with a proposal. Congress will next develop their budget outline, and they will ultimately pass the next federal budget, which may or may not look like Trump's proposal.

Cuts would harm low-income Americans and services provided at the state and local levels. The president's budget includes $15 billion in unspecified cuts in domestic discretionary spending for the current fiscal year (FY 2017), which ends on September 30, and $54 billion in cuts for FY 2018. The proposed cuts include:
  • $2.5 billion, or 21 percent, from the U.S. Department of Labor, including cuts to several job training programs that help workers get better jobs;
  • $9 billion, or 13 percent, from the U.S. Department of Education, including cuts to college student aid and work study programs for low-income students; and
  • eliminating funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees the AmeriCorps program.
In addition, the budget cuts about $18 billion in grants to state and local governments, including:
  • $3.9 billion in cuts to K-12 education grants, including after-school programs;
  • $4.2 billion from the Community Development Block Grant and the HOME program, which are crucial to funding affordable housing initiatives; and
  • $4.2 billion from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which helps low-income families pay for heat, and the Community Services Block Grant, which funds state, local and nonprofit programs to fight poverty.
In addition, the president's budget proposal includes severe cuts to many other services that help build vibrant communities, like arts and humanities, and a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Cuts at this order of magnitude push a lot of tough choices on the states, which will be extremely challenged in funding crucial services, including those to meet the needs of their most vulnerable residents.

The proposed budget leaves us with many questions. The president's budget outline provides much less information than prior presidential budgets, analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds. Budgets from the past five administrations have included estimates of total revenues, spending and deficits for at least four fiscal years, and the two most recent administrations have covered 10 years. These past administrations also included information on how their budget proposals would affect mandatory and entitlement spending (like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and SNAP food assistance), and four of the five provided details for more than the current year. In sharp contrast, Trump's budget only includes details for FY 2018 and only for discretionary programs. There is no information on spending on mandatory and entitlement spending, revenues, interest payments, or deficits. It is also unclear where the budget cuts for the current fiscal year will come from. The president's budget document notes that the administration will release information on a tax plan and entitlement spending later this spring. Stay tuned.

-Clark Biegler