The Local Impact of the Federal Budget

By Eleanor Wertman, MPH

Donald Trump has proposed a budget for Fiscal Year 2018 that would eviscerate funding for dozens of government agencies while increasing military and defense spending. North Carolina stands to lose $340,172,000 if Trump’s budget is fully enacted, a 9% cut in overall federal funding. Fortunately, Trump’s budget proposal is merely an advisory document to guide Congress in making their spending decisions for next year. While Congress is in recess (from now through April 24), we have the chance to tell our elected officials to reject Trump’s cruel budget and preserve essential federal funding in our state. Read on to learn about some of the local consequences of Trump’s federal budget, and then use this information to make yourself heard!

Scientific Research

North Carolina’s Research Triangle and excellent universities have long been centers of scientific research and innovation. All of these institutions rely heavily on funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which made 2,221 grants totaling $1.2 billion to NC organizations in 2016. Trump’s budget would cut NIH funding by 18.3%, eliminating $5.8 billion. Critical research, like a UNC study on early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and a Duke study on improving radiation therapy for cancer patients, might no longer be possible. NIH cuts would also threaten the over 17,000 jobs in the state that are at least partially funded by NIH grants.

Trump’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be another blow to research and innovation in NC and in the Triangle in particular. The proposed 31% cut to the EPA directly threatens the 3,200 workers employed at NC-based EPA offices, including the 2,000 employees at the EPA’s second-largest office in the Research Triangle Park. These EPA offices, including the EPA’s primary center for air pollution research and regulation, conduct critical research to identify and respond to public health threats. EPA funding cuts also threaten jobs at contract research agencies like nonprofit RTI International, which currently manages about $30 million in EP research contracts and has done contract work for the EPA for decades.

Your call to action: Call your representative and senators and demand they protect funding for crucial scientific and medical research from agencies like the NIH and the EPA. Remind them that NC’s proud history of cutting-edge research is only possible with continued federal funding. 

Education

The Trump budget proposes cutting the Department of Education’s overall budget by $9 billion, while increasing funding for so-called “school choice” programs. The budget would eliminate $2.4 billion in funding for teacher training; $1.2 billion in funding for summer school and after-school programs; and $200 million in funding for low-income, first generation, and disabled college students. It would also eliminate Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants for low-income undergraduates entirely.

At the state level, NC already spends disproportionately little on its public schools, ranking 44th in per pupil funding and 41st in teacher pay as of 2016. The state public school system is currently on the brink of a funding crisis thanks to a Republican mandate to reduce class size without any additional funding. The federal budget covers about 10% of NC’s educational spending, and Trump’s proposed changes would remove critical dollars for after school care and professional development for teachers. Even charter school advocates have pushed back against the proposed budget changes, noting that the changes will undermine public education by removing programs that support public school students.

NC’s university students, particularly low-income and first generation students, would also suffer if the proposed budget is approved. With deep cuts to funding for the Federal TRIO Programs, which identify and provide services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, over 70 programs in our state could lose crucial funding.

Your call to action: Call your representative and senators and urge them to vote against cuts to the Department of Education that undermine public education by defunding teacher development, after school programming, and funding for programs for low-income university students.

The Environment

Trump’s budget would slash funding for agencies that protect public lands and the environment. Federal funding constitutes more than half of NC’s environmental budget, and North Carolinians rely on this money to preserve our beautiful public parks, defend our state against ground and water pollution, monitor and respond to severe weather like Hurricane Matthew, and more.

For example, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides over $79 million in state grants to protect nearly 41,000 acres of national parks and other public lands in NC; the agency provides NC an additional $148 million to preserve national parks and forests and conserve habitats. North Carolina’s natural environment is not only beautiful but also a source of revenue, as outdoor recreation in the state generates $19.2 billion in annual consumer spending, generates 192,000 jobs, and produces $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. Senator Richard Burr, Representative G.K. Butterfield, and Representative David Price have all signed onto an annual “Dear Colleague” letter to affirm their support for the LWCF, but Senator Thom Tillis has not.

Your call to action: Call Thom Tillis and urge him not to support cuts to the LWCF, and call Burr and your House Representative to encourage them to continue resisting cuts to this important funding source.

Additionally, categorical federal grants from the agencies mentioned above currently provide about half of NC’s funding to implement laws like the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Without this funding, NC would be unable to provide basic environmental protections to its citizens. However, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have consistently voted against environmental protections like those provided by the Clean Water Act to protect big polluters like Duke Energy.

Your call to action: Call Senators Tillis and Burr and demand they preserve critical federal funding to protect our state from pollution.