The conservative California farmers who have long sought to eliminate the Legal Services Corp. would get their wish fulfilled under the Trump administration’s bare-bones budget outline made public Thursday.
The state’s large defense industry would likewise reap a windfall, as a result of Trump’s proposed $54 billion hike in military spending. There’s more money for deferred maintenance at Yosemite and other national parks, though less money for park-related construction. Forest Service wildland firefighting gets a shout-out.
For every California winner, there’s a loser in the 50-plus budget blueprint, making parts of the broad proposal unpalatable for Golden State lawmakers, including some Republicans. Its long-term congressional political prospects are uncertain, at best.
“It’s clear from this proposal, President Trump does not value government’s essential functions of public health, public safety, and public education,” said Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris.
Eliminating the Legal Services Corp., for instance, would save roughly $375 million while it would deprive California Rural Legal Assistance and the Fresno-based Central California Legal Services of roughly half of their total funding.
Some farmers believe federally funded lawyers have engaged in political activism while representing farm workers.
The state’s prisons and county jails would no longer be reimbursed for incarcerating undocumented immigrants, a potential loss of more than $50 million for California alone. The community block grants that have ranged in recent years from $4.2 million for Sacramento and $6.2 million for Fresno to $541,000 for Turlock would disappear.
The National Institutes of Health programs that this year will provide more than $210 million for researchers at University of California campuses would fall by about 20 percent. The National Endowment for the Arts, whose recent grant recipients include Sacramento’s La Raza Galeria Posada, would be no more. The conservation fund that’s supported land purchases in the Lake Tahoe Basin and parkway restoration along the Tuolumne River would take a hit.
The biggest departmental cut of all, a 31 percent reduction in the Environmental Protection Agency’s overall budget, could slow clean-up of California’s hundred-plus Superfund sites.
“This is the most draconian budget I’ve ever seen proposed by a president,” declared Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “It’s an absolute travesty for California and every state or community that thought they had a true partner in the federal government.”
California Director of Finance Michael Cohen added that Trump’s “budget proposes a complete withdrawal of the federal government’s commitment to working with states to solve the critical issues of the country.”
While sounding severe, though, many of the proposed budget cuts amount to hardy perennials. They crop up with every president, only to be rejected or simply ignored by Congress. The sparse budget outline is also considerably shorter than similar documents prepared by the Obama and Bush administrations, leaving a lot left up in the air.
“We’re going to work with the administration,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.
The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program that reimburses states for incarcerating immigrants, for instance, was repeatedly put on the chopping block by both the Obama and Bush administrations. It survived, with California regularly getting more than any other state. It now faces its latest threat from the Trump administration.
Many programs’ details, moreover, remain under wraps, as the full Trump budget proposal won’t be submitted until later this year. This follow-on proposal could clarify the potential future for an array of California-based programs, like an ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan that’s loathed by some of Trump’s closest California allies.
The Fiscal 2018 budget proposal itself will be but a starting point for the House Appropriations Committee, whose four California members include Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, and the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of whose senior members is Feinstein. Both appropriations panels tend to be relatively more bipartisan than other panels.