Budgets, whether local, state, or federal, generally reflect the values and priorities of the constituencies they serve. Budgets rarely are easy, and must be carefully drawn to meet the shared needs and demands of those same constituencies. That’s why the federal budget proposed last week by the Trump Administration has raised such howls of concern. The Trump budget upends the traditional partnership between the three levels of government, and threatens to foist responsibility for many current federal programs to the states and localities, but without sufficient funding.
Double digit percentage decreases to federal domestic agencies would have a significant and deleterious effect on local and regional environmental programs. The Chesapeake Bay Program, which oversees and coordinates the successful partnership to restore the Bay, is proposed to be cut from $73 million to $5 million per year. During the past 20 years, crabs, oysters, and fisheries have regenerated; submerged aquatic vegetation has thrived; and the main water column of the Bay has fewer dead zones, as states and localities work together to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loadings into the Bay. These successful efforts are due to increased investments in water, wastewater, and stormwater technology by taxpayers and ratepayers, but the Trump budget would eliminate the Water and Wastewater loan and grant program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a $500 million hit nationally.
Programs to help poor and disadvantaged persons also face severe cuts in the proposed Trump budget. Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance is reduced by $200 million, the Weatherization Assistance Program and State Energy Program would be eliminated, as would the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Apparently, being hungry and cold is not seen as a problem by the Trump Administration.
The Trump Administration, in its budget message, said that “We are going to do more with less, and make the government lean and accountable to the people…These cuts are sensible and rational.” Interesting message from a president who spends weekends at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, at a cost to the nation’s taxpayers of more than $3 million per weekend. Perhaps he should try doing more with less.
The Fairfax County budget, by contrast, seeks to maintain most county programs, without an increase in the tax rate. The County Executive’s budget proposal maintains our commitment to fairly addressing needs for both county and schools, provides pay increases for some county employees, and manages the impact on county taxpayers. It’s not perfect, but the proposed budget does aim to meet the needs without drastic curtailment of programs.
The Mason District Town Hall about gang activity, prevention, intervention, interdiction, and suppression in Fairfax County and the region will be held next Wednesday, March 29, at 7 p.m. at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. Presentations from the police, schools, county agencies, and federal partners will be followed by a question and answer session with the community. The public is encouraged to attend.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]