WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s first budget blueprint would dramatically boost 2018 spending next year on military and nuclear weapons programs that account for billions of federal dollars in New Mexico, but it would slash the budgets at a dozen agencies, including the departments of Interior and Agriculture.
The $1.15 trillion preliminary spending blueprint – referred to in Washington as a “skinny budget” – was officially released Thursday and contained overall proposed funding levels for all federal agencies, but very little line-item detail.
The budget includes no money for the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.
The Trump budget proposal is just that – a suggestion. The White House is expected to submit a more detailed budget to Congress in the coming weeks. Congress must ultimately approve federal spending, and early reactions Thursday included objections to at least parts of the president’s plan from Republicans, who control both the House and Senate, and Democrats.
The president cast his proposal to boost military spending by 10 percent – the largest increase since President Ronald Reagan’s first term in 1981 – as critical to America’s future.
“A budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its No. 1 priority – because without safety, there can be no prosperity,” Trump said in a message accompanying his budget proposal that was titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.”
The Trump proposal would eliminate budgets for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, and could dramatically cut some social programs such as Meals on Wheels and Head Start.
The proposal would also slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent.
Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, called the budget proposal “unconscionable” and predicted it would be “dead on arrival” in Congress.
“President Trump’s proposed budget would affect nearly every aspect of life and the economy in New Mexico,” Udall said. “Deep cuts to science, clean energy research and development, space programs, health research, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the arts and humanities would cripple engines for job creation in New Mexico. His cuts to affordable housing and his complete elimination of heating assistance and community development block grants would literally leave New Mexico families in the cold.”
Rep. Steve Pearce, the New Mexico delegation’s only Republican, called the Trump budget plan “a great first step” that takes “appropriate action to rein in our nation’s growing debt and deficit.” But he also noted that the budget “could have a negative effect on lower-income, rural states, like New Mexico.”
“This year, as in the past, Congress will work to eliminate unnecessary and duplicative programs within the government, while protecting the vital services that support the most vulnerable in our communities,” Pearce said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that proposed increases for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are a “step in the right direction,” but he said late last month that dramatic cuts to the State Department, also included in Trump’s budget released Thursday, would not have enough support to clear the Senate.
The suggested budget cuts would finance a massive increase in defense spending and make a down payment on a wall along the Mexican border.
Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, would be spared, while the border wall would receive an immediate $1.5 billion infusion in the ongoing fiscal year, with another $2.6 billion planned for the 2018 budget year, which starts Oct. 1.
Trump has repeatedly said Mexico would “pay for the wall,” but this budget proposal would send American taxpayers the bill, at least initially.
The budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories in New Mexico, would increase by 11 percent under Trump’s proposal. The budget blueprint for 2018 includes a suggested $6.5 billion for Department of Energy environmental management, including nuclear waste cleanup – up $300 million from 2017 spending levels.
Both Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, near Carlsbad, could potentially benefit from this suggested increase, if it is adopted by Congress.
The DOE budget would also jump-start the long-mothballed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.
Sandia National Laboratories scientists and officials played a key role in development of the proposed Nevada waste site in the past. But the overall DOE budget would shrink by roughly 5 percent under the Trump proposal, primarily because of cuts to clean energy research.
Other agencies with a large footprint in New Mexico and the West, including the departments of Interior and Agriculture, would be cut significantly under the president’s proposal.
The Interior Department’s budget would be reduced by 12 percent, partly by cutting funding for land acquisition by $120 million, cutting or eliminating some Native American programs and reducing the payments the federal government makes to counties for federal lands that cannot be taxed at the local level.
The budget of the Agriculture Department, which has a large presence in New Mexico, would be slashed by 21 percent, largely through cuts to rural water projects and county-level department staffing reductions.
The proposed agriculture budget reflects a nearly half-billion-dollar reduction by eliminating a rural water and wastewater loan and grant program that helps fund clean water and sewer systems in communities with fewer than 10,000 people.