Bud­get is a dou­ble whammy for re­gion

Trump’s pro­posal would in­crease lo­cal costs while goug­ing area’s rev­enue


For the Washington re­gion, the best thing about Pres­i­dent Trump’s bud­get is that Congress will prob­a­bly change it, of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts say.

Un­for­tu­nately, the result may not be a whole lot bet­ter.

The White House plan, is­sued Thurs­day, would de­liver a dou­ble whammy to the fed­eral cap­i­tal and its sub­urbs.

As in the rest of the coun­try, it would cut fed­eral spend­ing in ways that stick lo­cal and state gov­ern­ments with sharply higher costs to pro­tect the poor, im­prove trans­porta­tion and safe­guard the en­vi­ron­ment.

That could stall or re­verse high­pro­file ef­forts by Dis­trict Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and oth­ers to re­duce home­less­ness and nar­row the in­come di­vide in a metropoli­tan area marked si­mul­ta­ne­ously by great wealth and deep poverty.

But the fed­eral bud­get is likely to have an even greater im­pact on the Washington re­gion than else-

where be­cause of Trump’s pledge to dra­mat­i­cally shrink the fed­eral civil­ian work­force. The plan would cost at least 15,000 lo­cal jobs in the first year and drain at least $2.6 bil­lion from the re­gional econ­omy, ac­cord­ing to one es­ti­mate.

That would re­duce tax rev­enue and make it harder for lo­cal gov­ern­ments to fill the gap cre­ated by lower fed­eral spend­ing on so­cial ser­vices and other pro­grams.

“We’re po­ten­tially go­ing to get hit with a slow­ing econ­omy and a reduction in fed­eral as­sis­tance,” Mary­land state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Mont­gomery) said. “It def­i­nitely has the po­ten­tial to sink the re­gional econ­omy into a significant re­ces­sion.”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said it wants to cut do­mes­tic pro­grams that are waste­ful, in­ef­fec­tive or bet­ter han­dled by lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

But it wants to boost spend­ing on the mil­i­tary and cy­ber­se­cu­rity, two ar­eas im­por­tant to the Washington re­gional econ­omy that could par­tially off­set re­duc­tions in agen­cies re­spon­si­ble for health, so­cial ser­vices and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Still, lo­cal of­fi­cials and ex­perts ex­pressed in­creas­ing alarm as they an­a­lyzed the White House’s pro­posed bud­get. The ini­tial out­cry fo­cused on head­line-grab­bing moves to de­fund the fed­eral pro­gram to clean up the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and to po­ten­tially kill the light-rail Pur­ple Line in sub­ur­ban Mary­land.

The bud­get also would deeply cut fed­eral fund­ing across the re­gion that is vi­tal to pro­vid­ing more af­ford­able housing in an area with soar­ing rents and home prices. It would slash sup­port for job train­ing and Meals on Wheels. And it could kill a pro­gram that helps 22,000 house­holds in the Dis­trict alone to pay elec­tric and home heat­ing bills.

Lo­cal county and mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers said their cof­fers don’t have any­where near enough money to re­place the lost rev­enue. They would face hard choices over whether to raise taxes, shift funds from schools or other pri­or­i­ties, or re­duce ser­vices for their need­i­est res­i­dents.

“Some of the most painful cuts are to funds that help low-in­come in­di­vid­u­als get back on their feet so that they can be­come pro­duc­tive and suc­cess­ful mem­bers of the com­mu­nity,” Fair­fax Board of Su­per­vi­sors Chair­man Sharon S. Bulova (D) said. “Shift­ing fund­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments is a death sen­tence to th­ese ser­vices.”

Some lo­cal lead­ers ex­pressed hope that Congress will soften the blow, not­ing that law­mak­ers have the fi­nal say over the fed­eral bud­get and typ­i­cally give White House pro­pos­als a thor­ough re­write.

“There’s no sug­ar­coat­ing this,” Mont­gomery County Ex­ec­u­tive Isiah Leggett (D) said. “The chal­lenge for us, num­ber one, is to make sure that th­ese cuts don’t come to fruition.”

Some pro­grams on the chop­ping block — such as Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grants, which fund nu­mer­ous pro­grams to help the poor — have en­joyed broad po­lit­i­cal sup­port in the past.

But Repub­li­cans con­trol both houses of Congress, and many of them were already push­ing for changes that could hurt the re­gion, in the eyes of the Demo­cratic elected of­fi­cials who dom­i­nate it.

GOP de­fense hawks want to in­crease mil­i­tary spend­ing be­yond the level pro­posed by Trump, which could result in sharper cuts on the civil­ian side. And while many Repub­li­cans want to pro­tect en­vi­ron­men­tal and farm pro­grams, the State Depart­ment, and for­eign aid, the GOP ap­pears less in­ter­ested in pre­serv­ing spend­ing on pro­grams im­por­tant to the Washington re­gion’s housing and other anti-poverty ef­forts.

The Repub­li­cans “have the en­tire leg­isla­tive and ex­ec­u­tive branch of gov­ern­ment,” Leggett said. “When they’ve got both of those, it be­comes much more difficult to stop.”

New hur­dles to housing

In both the Dis­trict and the in­ner sub­urbs, Trump’s bud­get would dis­man­tle a patch­work of fed­eral pro­grams that the ju­ris­dic­tions rely on to cre­ate housing for their most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents.

It also cuts a va­ri­ety of other pro­grams that serve the el­derly, dis­abled and un­em­ployed.

“It’s a vi­cious plan, re­ally,” Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity economist Stephen S. Fuller said. “This will dis­crim­i­nate against smaller and poorer ju­ris­dic­tions, par­tic­u­larly the pop­u­la­tions that were tar­geted as need­ing th­ese kinds of ser­vices. This deep­ens the di­vi­sion be­tween the haves and the have-nots.”

Trump’s plan calls for elim­i­nat­ing fund­ing for Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Fi­nan­cial In­sti­tu­tions, a Trea­sury pro­gram that helps en­tice de­vel­op­ers and in­vestors to build housing and busi­nesses in low-in­come neigh­bor­hoods.

With­out it, ex­perts say, the ef­fec­tive­ness of the Dis­trict’s Housing Pro­duc­tion Trust Fund could be se­verely cur­tailed. Bowser has poured $100 mil­lion a year into the fund, but with­out fed­eral in­cen­tives, the money would only stretch a frac­tion of the dis­tance in com­ing years.

More im­me­di­ately, Trump’s bud­get could elim­i­nate fund­ing for more than 1,000 of the city’s al­lot­ment of roughly 11,000 fed­eral housing vouch­ers, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by the Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties.

De­pend­ing on how the cuts are im­ple­mented, hun­dreds of low­in­come fam­i­lies, se­niors and home­less vet­er­ans wait­ing for units could be cut off from new place­ments.

Com­bined, ex­perts said, even half of Trump’s pro­posed cuts would all but up­end Bowser’s pledge to end chronic home­less­ness in the city by the end of the decade.

“It likely will result in in­creas­ing our home­less­ness statis­tics in the Dis­trict,” said Stephen Glaude, pres­i­dent of the Coali­tion for Non­profit Housing and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment. “Where we’ve been mak­ing progress, this will slow us down.”

Elected of­fi­cials in the sub­urbs have sim­i­lar wor­ries. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of Trump’s plan, Fair­fax stopped en­rolling new clients for housing vouch­ers about a month ago. Last year the pro­gram helped pay rents for 9,000 peo­ple in the county; their in­comes av­er­aged $17,470.

Alexandria Mayor Al­li­son Sil­ber­berg (D) said her small city would lose two grants from the Depart­ment of Housing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment to­tal­ing $1.2 mil­lion in the com­ing year if the bud­get passes.

“Th­ese two pro­grams pro­vide af­ford­able housing for renters and home­own­ers, and en­ergy as­sis­tance that lit­er­ally helps peo­ple pay for heat in the win­ter and cool­ing in the sum­mer,” Sil­ber­berg said. “Th­ese pro­grams are not ab­stract. They’re real. Peo­ple’s lives are on the line.”

In Prince Ge­orge’s County, of­fi­cials es­ti­mate the ju­ris­dic­tion would lose $3 mil­lion for nu­tri­tion pro­grams for the el­derly and for a fos­ter grand­par­ent pro­gram. It also would lose about $7 mil­lion of fed­eral funds for job train­ing, which rep­re­sents al­most its en­tire bud­get for that pur­pose.

Trou­ble on two fronts

At the same time that lo­cal gov­ern­ments would strug­gle to pro­tect ser­vices dec­i­mated by the White House plan, they would face a shrink­ing tax base as fed­eral work­ers lose their jobs.

Ge­orge Ma­son’s Fuller, a long­time ex­pert on the re­gion’s econ­omy, said the pro­posed bud­get would lead to the loss of be­tween 15,000 and 24,600 fed­eral jobs in the area in the first year. About 370,000 peo­ple in the area hold fed­eral jobs now.

The loss in pay­roll in­come, com­bined with an ex­pected drop in fed­eral spend­ing on pro­cure­ment, could mean a reduction in to­tal fed­eral rev­enue in the re­gion of be­tween $2.6 bil­lion and $3.9 bil­lion an­nu­ally, he said.

“We could be worse than that, de­pend­ing on what this Congress does,” Fuller said.

The re­gion’s high­est-rank­ing Repub­li­can elected of­fi­cial, Mary­land Gov. Larry Hogan, sought to de­flect crit­i­cism of Trump’s bud­get by em­pha­siz­ing that it might never come to pass.

In an email to a re­porter, Hogan’s spokesman, Dou­glass Mayer, be­gan, “As you know, Congress sets the bud­get on the fed­eral level, and they haven’t passed a bud­get in eight years (or more).”

Then, in re­sponse to spe­cific ques­tions about the bud­get’s po­ten­tial im­pact on Mary­land, Mayer wrote six times: “If any of th­ese pro­pos­als ever be­come law or even draft leg­is­la­tion, we will take a se­ri­ous look at how to ad­dress them dur­ing our own bud­get process.”

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