McCollum Remarks at Public Testimony on Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered the following remarks at testimony she hosted on March 9 to hear from Minnesota community and nonprofit leaders about their fiscal year 2019 budget and appropriations priorities:
Good morning. Thank you for joining me to discuss President Trump’s 2019 proposed federal budget and how it impacts the priorities of the Minnesotans we all work for and serve. As you may know, I serve on the House Appropriations Committee and as the Ranking Member of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee.
The Appropriations Committee remains the rare House committee where Republicans and Democrats work together very closely. We certainly have our policy disagreements, but we work to resolve them with a spirit of compromise. For most of on the committee it is still about making our government work effectively for the good of our nation and the American people.
Unfortunately, the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress have not prioritized the work of the Appropriations Committee. The federal government limps along, continuing resolution to continuing resolution, because a partisan agenda of repealing the Affordable Care Act and passing massive, unaffordable tax cuts took priority over responsibly funding the U.S. government.
As you know, the President proposes the budget, but it is Congress that disposes. We appropriate the funds. But the actions of this President and Congress will have long term fiscal impacts on the federal government’s ability to address the priorities of the American people.
The recent law passed to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy has thrown a major wrench into future spending decisions, because it causes annual budget deficits to soon approach $2 trillion. Yes, $2 trillion in unsustainable annual deficits. House Speaker Paul Ryan is already using these higher deficits to demand Congress Medicare into a voucher program and sharply curtail nutrition assistance for low-income children, families, and seniors. I have no doubt that they will target Social Security offset their deficits.
Congress is now operating under its fifth continuing resolution, depriving Minnesota families, businesses, and communities of the certainty you deserve. That is no way to govern responsibly.
Fortunately, a bipartisan budget agreement was reached in late February. This agreement lifted budget caps that blocked investments in education, environmental protection, and public safety. The bipartisan agreement devoted new resources to the opioid epidemic and veterans’ health care and reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program and our community health centers. I strongly believed that this budget agreement was the best deal we could reach to advance the priorities of Minnesota families.
With the agreement in place, we have been able to get to work finalizing the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills – nearly six months past the start of the fiscal year. Negotiations are proceeding – and I expect a final omnibus appropriations bill will provide substantial new resources to support our health care system, enhance public safety, and make some needed infrastructure investments.
I very much hope that we will pass an omnibus bill by the March 23 deadline. Once we finish that, we will dive head first into the appropriations process for fiscal year 2019.
Last month, President Trump presented his $4.4 trillion budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. I will not mince words: it is a disturbing vision that, if enacted, will hurt families, businesses, and communities in Minnesota and across the United States.
The Trump budget whacks education, by eliminating grants for after-school learning programs, professional development for our teachers, and literacy initiatives. It attacks higher education by cutting $203 billion from student loan programs, eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, slashing the work-study program, and freezing Pell Grants for low-income students. And the Trump budget weakens vital workforce development efforts by reducing grants for Job Corps programs, slashing the YouthBuild program, and cutting retraining programs for adults who have lost their jobs and need help gaining new skills.
The Trump budget also makes our communities less safe by cutting funding for activities like the COPS program, meaning fewer police officers on our streets. Our local governments will also have less money to invest in community development because the Trump budget eliminates the Community Development Block Grant.
As Ranking Member of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, I know just how damaging the Trump budget’s cuts to environmental protection really are. Slashing help for states to enforce clean air and clean water laws will lead to sicker families and polluted communities. Cutting the funding for EPA’s Office of Science and Technology by 37 percent will devastate the research necessary to protect our nation from environmental threats. Eliminating grants to address climate change leaves our planet more vulnerable to the catastrophic impacts of global warming. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – a $300 million annual program that has strong bipartisan support is cut by 90 percent to $30 million.
The National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities also fall under my Subcommittee, and once again President Trump has proposed to eliminate both of these cultural organizations. You don’t need me to tell you that the effect of eliminating these organizations on our community’s vibrant arts scene would be severe.
Last, but certainly not least, the Trump budget shreds our social safety net. It cuts Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars, ends the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, and cuts subsidies that help low-income people buy health coverage. The budget cuts SNAP, food stamps, by more than $200 billion, and means more people would go hungry. It exacerbates our affordable housing crisis by taking away funding for Housing Choice Vouchers, which help low-income families find a safe and decent place to live.
Finally, of special concern in weeks like this one in Minnesota, the Trump budget eliminates the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program – LIHEAP. LIHEAP is a lifeline for Minnesota families and its elimination literally leaves children and seniors out in the cold. With all these cuts to our social safety net, Trump’s budget hits poor Americans the hardest.
This year’s budget also included an infrastructure proposal that President Trump claimed would lead to trillions of dollars in investment in roads, bridges, and transit. But in reality, that’s another of the Trump administration’s alternative facts. The Trump budget proposes huge cuts to infrastructure investments like the TIGER and New Starts grant programs. And the infrastructure plan shifts costs from the federal government to cash-strapped state and local governments. When all is said and done, the Trump infrastructure plan puts no additional money into our country’s infrastructure.
In addition to the many cuts in the Trump budget, I’m very concerned by the misguided decisions the Trump budget makes about where to spend money. It includes $18 billion to construct an unnecessary, divisive wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a wall that President Trump promised during his campaign that Mexico would pay for. With his budget, he’s admitting that Mexicans won’t pay for his wall but Minnesotans will. And, even as the Trump budget targets critical domestic programs, it demonstrates complete fiscal irresponsibility with unwarranted growth in defense spending while doing nothing to curb inefficiencies in a bloated Pentagon budget.
Now here’s the good news: my Republican colleagues have already declared the Trump budget dead on arrival. In the months ahead, we will have the opportunity to craft better appropriations bills.
That’s where you come in. I want to hear from you today about your budget and appropriations priorities. As Minnesota’s only Appropriator, I look forward to working with you to meet the needs of the people you represent and fight for the priorities of Minnesotans in Washington.
Making smart investments in our families, communities, and security will pay far bigger returns than making dumb cuts that result in pain, divestment, and lost opportunities. Together we can make critical investments that help every Minnesotan and American contribute and succeed.
Thank you again for joining us. I look forward to your testimony.