July 25, 2017 A look into President Trump’s first budget
Article courtesy of Annick Miller Rivera, Senior Policy Advisor, Water Strategies LLC
In early June, President Trump released the long-awaited fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) budget request. Like most Administration budget requests, it was met with mixed reviews in Congress by members on both sides of the aisle. The request includes approximately $4.1 trillion in funding for FY 2018 and makes a number of reductions that the Administration states will cut spending by a total of $3.6 trillion over the next ten years.
Under President Trump’s request, Reclamation will be funded at $1.097 billion for FY 2018. This is a 19% reduction from the fiscal year 2017 (FY 2017) enacted level of $1.306 billion. It is worth noting President Obama’s FY 2017 budget request was $1.106 billion and that Congress augmented this request to provide additional funding for western drought relief, water conservation, and several provisions of the WIIN Act – a decision it can choose to replicate with this budget.
Specific to the Columbia Basin Project, for FY 2018 the total project funding is $220.74 million. Of this, $13.38 million will be funded through Reclamation. The rest, about $207.36 million, will be funded through other sources such as the Bonneville Power Administration, and several non-federal sources such as the Coulee Area Parks and Recreation District and water users. Reclamation has listed extensive work at Grand Coulee, Project Water Conservation Assistance, environmental compliance, and North Dam Park improvements as some of the proposed work for FY 2018.
While it is only a request, the President’s budget it is an important policy document that highlights the Administration’s priorities and marks the beginning of the budget process. Congress will consider the request, but will ultimately make determinations about federal funding priorities on its own. This sentiment was highlighted in a statement from House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen who issued the following statement in response to the Administration's budget request: "As outlined in the Constitution, the Congress, not the Executive Branch, has the 'power of the purse.' My Committee takes this responsibility very seriously. It is our job to analyze the request, go through each and every budget line, question every witness, and demand spending justifications on behalf of the taxpayers who are footing the bill. Only then can Congress put forward our own plan to fund the federal government." To this extent the House Appropriations Committee has already begun holding hearings on specific sections of the budget and is expected to continue this work well into the summer.
Washington State is well represented in both chambers on the Appropriations Committees. Congressman Newhouse and Congresswoman Herrera Beutler are members of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, and Senator Patty Murray serves on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. These subcommittees provide funding for the Reclamation. Washington State’s congressional delegation must be utilized when discussing the importance of a federal funding for programs that matter to the Columbia Basin Development League. To this effect, the Columbia Basin Development League recently sent a letter to its Congressional delegation in response expressing its support for continued funding for the Columbia Basin Project and the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program. During a tight fiscal climate, it is important to highlight the added value that water infrastructure programs can provide.