Federal, local agencies brace for spending cuts in Trump budget
Federal, state and local agencies across Colorado on Thursday braced for deep spending cuts proposed in President Donald Trump’s budget. Potential impacts ranged from reductions in research grants to universities and laboratories to reduced public broadcast programming to a multimillion-dollar hit to housing and community development programs.
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday asked key staffers to reach out to U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet to assess how Colorado would fare under Trump’s proposed budget. Hickenlooper also directed all state agencies to assess how they would be
affected by the budget plan, which is likely to undergo significant change when Congress takes it up, said his spokeswoman, Jacque Montgomery.
“The Trump administration’s budget blueprint poses some serious challenges for communities across Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “We have directed our state agencies to immediately begin reviewing how these proposed cuts might impact Coloradans. We have also begun discussions with members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation to ensure that Colorado’s values and priorities are protected. Moving forward, it will be imperative that the Trump administration provides more detail and information about the nature and scope of the proposed plan.”
Trump is proposing deep cuts in discretionary spending for agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, while other areas, such as the military, would see large increases.
Labor statistics show that Colorado has a higher percentage of federal employment than some of its neighbors, such as Kansas and Nebraska, but lower than Wyoming and New Mexico. According to 2013 statistics, nearly 56,000 people in Colorado work for the federal government, or 2.3 percent of the state’s total employment. Much of that employment is clustered in Colorado Springs, with a heavy military presence, a sector that will see growth under Trump’s proposed budget.
Colorado has about 37,000 active members of the military. The agency with the largest share of the federal workforce in the state is the Interior Department, which potentially faces a 12 percent reduction and has nearly 7,000 employees here. The next highest is the Air Force, with about 6,200 civilian employees.
Here’s a look at where cuts could hit hardest:
Housing and community funds
Trump has proposed eliminat- ing Community Development Block Grant funds that communities across the state rely on to finance community development activities.
The state annually receives about $34 million in such grants, most of which go to local communities. Of that amount, $8.5 million goes directly to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for dispersal. The department said Trump’s budget also proposed getting rid of $13.2 million in housing aid the agency receives annually.
Irv Halter, director of local affairs, held a meeting this week to warn his staff to gird for a brutal budget year, given Trump’s priorities.
“We don’t have any control,” said DOLA spokeswoman Denise Stepto. “We are focusing on what we can continue to do. We’re looking at what’s going to be impacted, and we’re doing an analysis to decide how to be nimble.”
The University of Colorado would be stung by the proposed budget cuts through reduced research funding, school officials said. Those losses would ripple throughout the state’s economy.
Nearly two-thirds of CU’s research funding for the fiscal year that ended last June — $602 million of a record $924 million total — came from federal agencies, with about half coming from the Department of Health and Human Services, said Ken McConnellogue, spokesman for the CU system.
That agency would be looking at an 18 percent cut under the proposed budget.
CU receives about $85 million from the National Science Foundation, which isn’t specifically mentioned in the proposed budget but could be included among unnamed agencies in line to see funding slashed. The university also gets more NASA research funding, about $80 million, than any public university in the country. The space agency would see a relatively small 1 percent reduction in its budget.
Research funding also flows to the university from the departments of Energy, Commerce and Education, which are slated to see budget reductions of 6, 16 and 14 percent, respectively. Money also comes from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which would see a 6 percent rise in funding.
“That $924 million we get obviously has a substantial economic impact on Colorado,” McConnellogue said. “That’s a lot of money that goes for not only the research, but for the infrastructure and ancillary jobs it creates. So it really would have a ripple effect not only on our university, but on our state’s economy.”
At Colorado State University, about 70 percent of the school’s research expenditures came from federal sources — $232 million of a total $332 million in the last fiscal year.
Science and research
Proposed cuts to agencies that fund several research organizations have caused an outcry in Colorado’s scientific community, one going as far as to call the cuts “indefensible.”
Climate scientists said the cuts would eliminate vital research the public relies on to prepare for and respond to weather emergencies.
“Staffing cuts that would have to happen born of the budget cuts would put incredibly smart people out of work and their projects
Denver International Airport could feel an impact from President Trump’s proposed budget. An initiative that subsidizes air routes to small airports could be at risk. Joe Amon, Denver Post file