03.23.17

By:  Rep. Blunt Rochester (D-Del.)
Source: The Hill

Economic security needed in Trump’s budget

While working to reduce the federal deficit in Washington, we should not sacrifice key investments in our nation’s infrastructure or in our citizens. Smart investment in our students and our teachers, in jobs and innovation, in working class families, our communities and in a modernized transportation system, is an investment in our future.

That’s why I am so concerned about President Trump’s recently released federal budget, which imposes harsh across the board cuts to a number of federal agencies and programs that will have a major negative impact on the people of Delaware and the nation.

We all knew President Trump would approach things differently when he came to office, but the budget he has put forward breaks many of the campaign promises he made to the American people. He promised to fight for American farmers and their families and said that supporting growth in the agriculture industry was a critical step toward making America “great again.” Yet, his budget calls for an almost $5 billion cut (more than 20 percent) to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

I’ve spoken to a number of stakeholders in Delaware’s agriculture industry, and many of them agree that the cuts proposed in President’s Trump budget will negatively impact key programs designed to promote job creation and growth, to say nothing of the impact to health and safety issues. Delaware has real-life examples of these programs paying off, and we cannot afford to lose them.

One of the programs the budget proposes for elimination, the Water and Wastewater Loan and Grant program, is designed to keep our communities healthy by funding projects to promote access to clean and safe water. Just this August, the USDA announced a $500,000 award that helped Selbyville, Del., eliminate contamination in some of its primary drinking wells by allowing it to finance and construct a new water treatment plant. Ensuring that we all have access to bare necessities like safe, clean drinking water should be a no-brainer.

Thankfully, President Trump allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to proceed with President Obama’s directive to help solve the Flint water crisis—but he must not stop there. This program is a vital tool for rural communities to update their water systems and protect public health in the process.

The president also promised a $1 trillion investment in modernizing our transportation system and fixing our crumbling infrastructure. Yet, his budget does the opposite and cuts over $2 billion (or 13 percent) from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Specifically, it would eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program that supports innovative transportation projects. DOT knows how important it is to spend resources wisely, which is why they’ve made TIGER grants so competitive. Thanks to the Delaware Department of Transportation, local, state, and federal officials, the First State won one of those grants to modernize the Claymont Regional Transportation center. The station didn’t meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and, because of its age, posed significant safety risks to its passengers as well as to pedestrians around the facility. Grants like this are critical to states’ economic growth and to fully supporting our workforce’s growing need for transportation options.

At a meeting in February, President Trump promised to make Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) a priority for his administration. While he maintained the Title III funding on which HBCUs heavily rely, he neglected to include important programs that would support the large number of low-income students that HBCUs serve.

Delaware State University has students that count on Federal Work Study programs to help offset their tuition costs. President Trump’s budget eliminates those programs, adversely impacting some of our most vulnerable students.

HBCUs were created to remove structural barriers facing African American communities and to ensure that ALL of our students are given the opportunity to reach their full potential. Well-educated and well-trained workers not only promote economic growth, but also strengthen the fabric of our democracy. We need to expand young people’s access to quality education, not restrict it.

This budget ignores the needs and priorities of Americans: Republicans and Democrats, rural and urban communities, and citizens young and old. The president says that safety is his number one priority, but his budget undermines the importance of economic security for millions of working-class Americans. That’s why I’m going to work tirelessly with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that Congress approves a budget that prioritizes our shared values, our people, and our future.  

Rep. Blunt Rochester is the lone representative for Delaware in the United States House of Representatives. She is the first woman and the first person of color to represent Delaware in such a role and serves on the House Committee on Education and Workforce as well as the House Committee on Agriculture.