Trump again proposes to slash Chesapeake Bay cleanup funds

U.S. President Donald Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence looking on, delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump's second State of the Union address was postponed one week due to the partial government shutdown. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday issued his latest proposal to dramatically scale back the funding for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

In his fiscal 2020 budget request, Trump suggested cutting federal spending for the Chesapeake Bay Program from its current level of $73 million to $7.3 million.

This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has proposed slashing the Chesapeake Bay program. During his first year in office, Trump sought to eliminate funding for the program entirely. And in 2018, he suggested cutting funding from $73 million to $7.3 million — a 90 percent reduction.

But as with many of the proposed cuts outlined by the White House, Congress refused to comply with the president’s request. The program received $67.5 million in the fiscal 2018 budget and $73 million in the fiscal 2019 budget.

Members of Congress who support the program — including Republicans and Democrats from states along the Chesapeake Bay and in its watershed — are expected to fight to keep those funds in place, as they have in past years.

“The Chesapeake Bay program has reduced pollution, bolstered oyster and crab populations, and driven tourism and outdoor recreation. I will fight back against President Trump’s proposal to — once again — cut this critical funding that helps protect our environment and stimulate the local economy in Virginia,” said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called Trump’s proposal a “nonstarter.”

The president’s $4.75 trillion budget request proposes increased spending on military programs, but recommends massive cuts to domestic programs. The Environmental Protection Agency would see its overall budget cut by about 31 percent. It suggests cuts to Medicaid and inclusion of $8.6 billion in funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border.

“Just months after inflicting a painful and costly 35-day shutdown, the president is putting our country at risk of yet another shutdown by demanding billions of dollars for an unnecessary and ineffective border wall,” Hoyer said.

“Furthermore, the president’s budget once again attacks our hardworking federal workforce by freezing their pay and threatening their retirement savings. The president’s proposal also seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act and fails to invest in infrastructure, education and workforce development, and programs to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said the budget is “chock-full of short-sighted, draconian cuts to critical programs like medical research, education, environmental protection, transportation, and health care.”

Some congressional Republicans, meanwhile, endorsed the president’s plans.

“I applaud the administration for prioritizing our military and veterans, education and reducing healthcare costs for American families,” said Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott. “Additionally, the president’s focus on school safety and border security promotes a stronger and safer vision for America.”

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, from Virginia’s 2nd District, who, along with other Democratic and Republican representatives, has introduced legislation that would fully fund the bay program for five years, said the president’s budget “ignores the fact that cleaning, preserving and protecting the Chesapeake Bay has broad bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.”