WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has proposed a record $4.8 trillion budget for the 2021 fiscal year, and while Congress decides what to fund, the document provides a window into the White House’s spending priorities.
The president’s plan includes about $2 trillion in cuts to safety net programs and student loan initiatives. Those reductions encompass new work requirements for Medicaid, federal housing assistance and food stamp recipients, which are estimated to cut nearly $300 billion in spending from the programs. The budget would also cut spending on federal disability insurance benefits by $70 billion and on student loan programs by $170 billion.
Foreign aid, public broadcasting and environmental programs also get cut under Trump’s proposal. He wants to spend more money on areas like restricting immigration, including an additional $2 billion for his wall along the southern border, and more money to develop state-of-the-art weapons.— Eliminating student loan help
The administration’s budget once again calls for eliminating subsidized federal student loans and ending the public service loan forgiveness program, an incentive for teachers, police officers, government workers and other public servants that cancels their remaining federal student loans after a decade of payments. Those proposals were in last year’s budget; Congress failed to adopt them.
The budget proposes cutting the Education Department’s funding by 7.8%, to $66.6 billion. It also calls for reduced work-study funding and the creation of a single income-driven loan repayment program, to replace what has become a confusing jumble of different payment plans. Under the administration’s plan, borrowers would pay 12.5% of their discretionary income toward their loans, instead of the 10% many currently pay.— Stacy Cowley and Erica L. Green— Major cuts to Medicaid
The budget proposes numerous changes to Medicaid that reduce spending on the health program for the poor and the disabled. Combined with a section of the budget devoted to “health care reform vision,” it cuts spending on Medicaid and subsidies for the Affordable Care Act by a combined $1 trillion.
The budget specifies changes that would tend to reduce enrollment in Medicaid and that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated would cause some states to reverse their expansions of coverage to childless adults without disabilities as part of the Affordable Care Act. Many Medicaid beneficiaries would be subjected to work requirements and asset tests, and states would be pressed to verify eligibility for the program more often under the budget’s proposals, strategies that have been shown to reduce enrollment even among those who are eligible. States that preserve their Medicaid expansions under the Affordable Care Act would be asked to gradually pay a larger share of the medical bills for those patients.
The budget would also reduce the federal share of spending for all Medicaid patients, by changing rules about how states can offer extra payments to certain health care facilities run by state or county governments, a policy that the administration has already proposed as a regulation. It would reduce a funding stream meant for hospitals that serve a “disproportionate share” of uninsured patients.
The budget also makes some small expansions of Medicaid coverage: It would allow states the option to cover inpatient care for psychiatric care or drug addiction treatment.— Margot Sanger-Katz— Medicare tweaked but not slashed
For Medicare, which the president has repeatedly pledged to leave untouched, the budget includes more than a dozen proposals to streamline the program and eliminate what the document describes as waste. Altogether, those strategies save around half a trillion dollars over the decade. But the changes do not represent major structural changes to the program that would reduce benefits or limit who would be eligible for the programs. Many of these shifts were included in President Barack Obama’s budgets as well.
Among the changes: Doctors would be paid the same price for services, regardless of whether they work for a hospital or a private practice. It also includes an effort to reduce payments to long-term care hospitals for patients after they are discharged from a regular hospital.
The budget suggests, for the first time, allowing Americans over 65 to opt out of Medicare entirely if they wish. And it would allow Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a high-deductible health plan to set aside more tax-free savings for health expenses.
It also calls on Congress to pass legislation to reduce the prices paid for prescription drugs. Such legislation, should it be developed and passed, would almost certainly cut spending by Medicare, which is among one of the budget’s costliest items.— Margot Sanger-Katz— Amid coronavirus, an attempt to “refocus” the CDC
The president’s budget would cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 9% overall. But it would raise funding levels for the center’s infectious disease activities. The White House budget said its cuts reflect an attempt to “refocus” the CDC on its core mission of preventing and controlling infectious disease and other emerging public health issues, such as opioids.
The budget also targets specific programs meant to fight particular cancers and prevent common chronic diseases, combining them into smaller, combined funding streams.— Margot Sanger-Katz— Deep cuts to environmental initiatives
The administration reserved some of its deepest cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency, which would face a 26% reduction in funding and the elimination of 50 programs Trump deemed “wasteful” or duplicative.
That’s about the level the administration has moved to cut the EPA in past years, but Congress has typically restored much of the funding. Last year, for example, lawmakers ultimately provided $9.1 billion to the agency, replacing popular programs the administration had tried to eliminate like federal efforts to clean up the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.
According to 2021 budget documents the Trump administration has proposed $6.7 billion in total EPA spending, which would shrink the agency to funding levels it last saw during the 1990s. A budget summary said the administration aims to prioritize “core functions” like addressing lead exposure in water and revitalizing former toxic cleanup sites. On the chopping block are programs the administration deemed “outside of the EPA’s core mission” like beach cleanup.
The budget does not mention climate change. It also states misleadingly that air pollutant emissions dropped between 2016 and 2018, and credited the Trump administration with overseeing “some of the cleanest air and water in the world” while eliminating clean air and water regulations.
After a decade of improvement in air quality nationally, federal data last year showed that fine particulate pollution has increased in the last two years.
At the same time, the budget promotes a fossil fuel “energy boom” in the United States, including an increase in the production of natural gas and crude oil, both of which release carbon dioxide emissions responsible for warming the planet.
Republicans in Congress this week are preparing to unveil a climate change agenda that focuses heavily on funding for “innovation” — like the development of carbon capture technology to store the planet-warming carbon dioxide that is released from power plants, or batteries to store solar power during periods of low demand. But under Trump’s 2021 budget plan, the Department of Energy, which oversees such federal research, would undergo a 29% cut to all programs not related to nuclear weapons and defense.— Lisa Friedman— Food stamps on the chopping block
The administration once again suggested cutting funds for America’s primary food assistance program and continued an effort to reduce the number of adults who can qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The budget reduces SNAP funding by about $180 billion between 2021 and 2030.
The White House has been making changes to the program on its own, including toughening eligibility requirements and cracking down on states that “misuse” work requirement waivers. In keeping with that approach, the budget proposes one set of work requirements for adults ages 18-65 who are able to work, rather than making a distinction on whether those adults have children or not. All adults who are able to work would have to engage in “at least 20 hours or more” of work or training in order to qualify for benefits.
The budget also keeps Trump’s controversial “Harvest Box” proposal in place, continuing to suggest that poor Americans who receive SNAP benefits get a portion of their benefit in a “Harvest Box” full of food preselected for nutritional value and economic benefit to American farmers. The cache of cheaper peanut butter, canned goods, pasta, cereal, “shelf stable” milk and other products would now be selected by the federal government, not by the people eating it.
A White House official said the changes were necessary given that too many Americans remain on public assistance.
“Despite significant economic improvement and a strong job market, participation has not yet declined to prerecession levels, and too many people are still missing the opportunity to move from dependence to self-sufficiency,” the budget said.— Lola Fadulu— Reduced housing assistance
Trump proposed to again cut funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including programs that help pay for rental assistance for low-income people.
The budget proposes a 15.2% decrease in gross discretionary funding from 2020 and eliminates several block grant programs. The administration argues that some of the programs, such as the Community Development Block Grant, are not effective and that the funding could be redirected to other priorities, such as national security. The budget eliminates the Choice Neighborhoods Program, which awards grants to neighborhoods with deteriorating public and federally assisted housing, arguing that states and local governments are better able to revitalize neighborhoods.
Trump also requested less money for rental assistance programs, such as Housing Choice Vouchers, and proposed that tenants who are able to work and receive assistance contribute 35% of their income to rent instead of 30%.— Lola Fadulu— Trade assistance winnowed
The proposed budget slashes discretionary funding for the Commerce Department, which monitors the weather, collects economic data, promotes exports, issues patents and other duties, by more than 37%, the largest single cut to any agency. More than half that decrease, though, was a reflection of decreased spending on the 2020 census, which will not be repeated next year.
The budget also pares money for the trade adjustment assistance program, which is run through the Labor Department. The program offers training and support to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of outsourcing, but it has faced criticism that it may actually end up making its recipients worse off, by temporarily taking them out of the workforce for training. The Trump administration has proposed refocusing the program more on apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
The cuts to the Commerce Department budget also include various reductions to economic development programs, which the administration says are duplicated elsewhere.
The budget requests additional funding for investments in areas considered crucial for American competitiveness, particularly advanced technology, including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, advanced manufacturing and 5G telecom networks.
The White House has proposed allowing the Commerce Department to auction off more telecom spectrum to private companies, one of the main bottlenecks in the country’s effort to advance 5G. The change would give private companies more access to a scarce resource and generate $670 million over the next 10 years, the administration said.— Ana SwansonCrackdown on unauthorized immigration gets a big boost
Trump’s budget requests $2 billion to build 82 miles of border wall along the border with Mexico, as the Homeland Security Department rushes to complete 450 miles of barriers by 2021. The administration has completed nearly 120 miles thus far, almost all of it on federal land and in areas where there were sections of dilapidated wall or vehicle barriers.
The $2 billion is significantly less than the $5 billion in wall funding that Trump sought a year ago, which resulted in a five-week government shutdown. While Congress has previously agreed to provide only $1.375 billion for wall construction, Trump has found a way to secure money for his wall without congressional approval by shifting billions of dollars from military construction projects and programs used to crack down on narcotics activity.
The proposal also includes $182 million to hire 750 Border Patrol agents and build processing centers for agents and another $544 million to hire more than 4,600 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and immigration court prosecutors.
The White House budget includes $3.1 billion for a daily average of 60,000 beds in ICE detention centers, an increase from the 54,000 the White House requested last year. The increase in the budget request shows that the administration is likely to keep working to crack down on unauthorized immigration in the coming year.— Zolan Kanno-Youngs— More money for preventing veteran suicides
The White House has proposed a $105 billion budget — a 14% increase — for Veterans Affairs, including additional funding for suicide prevention, opioid addiction services and health care. Such boosts have become fairly routine and tend to enjoy bipartisan support.
However, the White House again proposed changes to cost-of-living calculations, which are used to determine payments for pensions and other compensation. The plan, which would “round down” the money owed to the nearest whole dollar, has sparked pushback from veterans and lawmakers, who say it unfairly robs veterans of money.— Thomas Gibbons-Neff— Secret Service returns to Treasury
The White House officially proposed moving the Secret Service from the Department of Homeland Security to the Treasury Department.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been in talks with DHS officials and members of Congress to secure an agreement over legislation that would return the Secret Service to Treasury, where it existed before the national security reshuffling that occurred after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The budget argues that moving it would “create new efficiencies” in the investigation of financial crimes and prepare the U.S. to face “the threats of tomorrow,” such as the use of cryptocurrencies to finance terrorism.
There appears to be bipartisan support for the move, but Mnuchin’s unwillingness to provide documents before the 2020 election on what it has cost the Secret Service to protect the president and his family has complicated the effort.
The Trump administration wants to allocate $2.4 billion to the Secret Service, up from $2.3 billion a year ago.— Alan Rappeport— Foreign aid gets cut
Funding for the State Department and international aid programs would be cut by $3.7 billion, or nearly 8%, from current spending levels. It would dramatically reduce or eliminate aid to international organizations, including the United Nations.
The overall $44.1 billion spending proposal does away with discretionary funds for unplanned expenses overseas by the U.S. Agency for International Development and 12 other agencies that work with the State Department.
It also eliminates funding for a food aid program that officials described as too slow to meet needs, economic and development accounts that impede direct assistance to specific countries in Europe and Asia, and for the Asia Foundation, a nonprofit that boosts good governance and empowers women.
Programs that would receive fewer funds include peacekeeping efforts by the U.N., which would be cut by $447 million, and the U.S.‘ annual contribution to the world body itself, by $508 million.
The Trump administration has long complained that the U.S. pays 22% of the U.N.’s annual budget, more than any other country. In 2018, the administration ended funding to the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees and tried to curb a peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon — both as Trump sought to bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before elections in Israel.— Lara Jakes— A new tobacco agency
The administration proposes moving the Center for Tobacco Products out of the Food and Drug Administration and into a separate agency under the Department of Health and Human Services.
It is not a complete surprise, as Joe Grogan, the White House head of the Domestic Policy Council, said at a news conference in November that he didn’t think the FDA should regulate tobacco. But the proposal is likely to face significant opposition on Capitol Hill. Congress gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco and vaping products under the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. It has taken years for the agency to adopt policies for overseeing tobacco and vaping products. During that time, e-cigarettes emerged as an epidemic among teenagers.
The current budget for the FDA tobacco center is $662 million, and the president’s budget asks for an additional $100 million. The director of the new agency would require Senate confirmation.— Sheila Kaplan
©2019 New York Times News Service