Trump’s budget proposal has mixed impact in Colorado

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Washington, D.C.-, March 16, 2017 | comments

President Donald Trump’s initial budget proposal released Thursday — what amounts to an opening bid for how the administration believes the federal government should spend tax money beginning in 2018 — would have widespread impacts across Colorado.

Congress is expected to make its own changes in coming weeks. Democrats were highly critical of the proposals; Republicans mostly in favor.

The 62-page document, available here, offers a look at how the White House views the federal government’s responsibilities and activities.

The proposal aims to boost spending for defense by $54 billion, earmarks $2.6 billion to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S., and reign in spending at other agencies as well as cutting the size of the federal bureaucracy.

Eliminating federal agency jobs could have a significant impact on the Denver-metro area, which has one of the biggest concentrations of federal employees outside of Washington, D.C.

Colorado is home to nearly 54,000 federal employees, according to Governing magazine.

As of September 2016 there were of 11,483 employees in working in “science and environmentally-focused federal agencies” in Colorado, according to an analysis by Conservation Colorado, the state’s biggest environmental advocacy group.

Many people work at the Federal Center in Lakewood, others work at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and federal officials in Golden, and others at federal offices in Boulder, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which saw a 16 percent cut in its budget.

There also could be some upside to the state in the form of the 9 percent boost in the U.S. Department of Defense’s budget for "accelerating the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and for beginning to rebuild the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Colorado is home to seven military installations, including the U.S. Army’s Fort Carson, and the Air Force’s Peterson, Buckley, Schriever, and Cheyenne Mountain operations, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), all near Colorado Springs.

Among the budget impacts were:

  • The elimination of a $124 million “Manufacturing Extension Partnership” program overseen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which has a major office in Boulder.
  • An unspecified cut to the U.S. Department’s of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which provides 80 percent of the funding for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden. NREL’s last budget, in fiscal 2016, was $386.8 million.
  • The elimination of the $175 million Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes airline routes to rural airports. Denver International Airport serves 22 of those rural markets, more than any other airport in the continental U.S. Colorado markets served by the program at Alamosa, Cortez and Pueblo.
  • Elimination of federal support for Amtrak’s long-distance train services, including the two that pass through Colorado, the California Zephyr which stops at Denver Union Station, and the Southwest Chief, which passes through southeastern Colorado.
  • Eliminates the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program which funds research on next generation energy technologies. Colorado has 22 active projects in the ARPA-E program, according to the agency’s website.
  • Eliminates more than $250 million in grants and programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has a big office in Boulder, supporting coastal and marine management, research and education.

Some agencies were in for big budget cuts, including:

  • A 31 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has a regional office in downtown Denver.
  • A 12 percent cut to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees public lands across the country.
  • A 6 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • A 5 percent cut to the Small Business Administration (SBA) budget, including the elimination of $12 million worth of technical-assistance grants and other programs where the administration says the private sector already provides programs for small-business development and growth.

The cut to the SBA’s budget followed a record-breaking year in 2016 for the agency in the number of loans and the amount of money loaned to Colorado’s small businesses. Last year, the agency in Colorado made a record 1,996 guaranteed loans worth $826.7 million to small businesses.

Reaction to Trump's proposal was split along party lines.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver said the proposal “shows that President Trump’s priorities are dangerous. I am especially concerned that the president plans to gut the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health.”

The National Institutes of Health would see an 18 percent budget cut under the proposal.

“Republicans and Democrats alike have expanded NIH over time to support vital research that has helped Americans live longer and healthier lives. The EPA has promoted safe water, air and soil in this country for 46 years. And State protects long-term American interests and works to improve security around the world,” DeGette said.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Golden, said Trump’s proposed budget “will have devastating consequences for our country and for Colorado. I will do my best to fight against the cuts affecting hardworking families, federal employees, businesses and research organizations.”

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Boulder, called the proposal “a carelessly crafted wrecking ball.”

“The President’s budget says less diplomacy, more bombs. He’s saying less resources for underserved students, and more for private schools. He’s saying less funding for our world-renowned scientists, and more dollars for walls. He’s saying less environmental protections, and more pollution in our air and water,” Polis said.

Across the political aisle, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said the nation needs to focus on reducing its debt.

“With our national debt now over $20 trillion, the federal government cannot continue to spend money it doesn’t have. It is now more important than ever that we focus federal resources on keeping our country safe through defense and diplomacy, invest in programs that deliver results for Americans on Main Street and grow the economy, and ensure our social safety nets are put on a sustainable course for those who truly need them,” Tipton said.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, said the proposal is a reflection of Trump’s “promises to the American people to shrink the size of government and prioritize our essential national security obligations. I am pleased to see that he is committed to reducing out-of-control government spending and placing us on a path to a more fiscally sustainable future for our nation.”

Among the business community, Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas trade group, approved of the budget’s plan to reorient resources in the U.S. Department of Interior toward oil and natural gas production.

“We have many members who have been trying to operate on federal lands in Colorado who have been stymied for years — that aspect of the budget could be positive directly for Colorado, in that the royalties from those operations would be split with the state,” Sgamma said.

Jessica Goad, a spokeswoman for Conservation Colorado, said her group is worried “unprecedented” cuts to the Interior department’s budget ”will hamper the ability of our park rangers, scientists, those who enforce the law against polluters and other Coloradans from doing their important work. This is not just cutting the fat, this is a complete butchering of programs and jobs that are critical to Colorado.”

Content originally published by the Denver Business Journal on March 16, 2017.
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