Five takeaways from Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal

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Five takeaways from Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal

President Trump rolled out a $4.4 trillion budget on Monday that provides a window into the administration’s priorities for the coming year.

The administration is using the budget to advance its goals of strengthening the military, improving infrastructure and constructing a border wall. The budget also takes aim at government programs the White House sees as wasteful.

The budget is unlikely to become law, but some of the administration’s proposals are likely to be part of discussions on Capitol Hill, with administration officials testifying before Congress on the document this week.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Monday that the budget is “absolutely not” dead on arrival, saying that the president’s budget is always a “messaging document.”

Mulvaney said that the administration has two main messages with the budget.

The first is that Congress doesn’t have to spend all the money it is allowed under the new spending caps, but if it does the White House has recommendations for how to spend the money. The second message, Mulvaney said, is that “we do not have to have trillion-dollar deficits forever.”

Here are five takeaways from Trump’s budget request.

The budget doesn’t balance

Republicans frequently express concerns about debt and deficits, and have offered proposals in the past to balance the federal budget.

But Trump’s budget doesn’t reach that goal.

The budget includes proposals designed to reduce deficits by $3.6 trillion over 10 years and lower debt levels as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). These include changes to Medicare, Medicaid and programs meant to help the poor, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

But Trump’s budget doesn’t wipe out deficits entirely. Over the course of the budget window, deficits are estimated to total more than $7 trillion.

Mulvaney said he probably could have made the budget balance, but “it would have taken funny numbers to do it.” He said the budget is able to “turn the tide” with the debt-to-GDP levels.

Budget watchdog groups expressed concerns about the White House’s proposal.
“The budget has too many gimmicks, exaggerated savings, and rosy assumptions,” Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget President Maya MacGuineas said in a statement. “Most troubling, it doesn’t make the credible hard choices necessary to help bring the debt back to more manageable levels.”

Trump pivots to infrastructure, but requests limited federal funds

The budget takes a step forward toward Trump’s goal of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, which the administration has made a top priority following its success in getting tax-cut legislation across the finish line.

But the White House’s infrastructure plan puts much of the burden on state and local governments, as well as the private sector, to fund the new investments.

The plan calls for $200 billion in federal funds, half of which would go to an incentive program to encourage municipal and private infrastructure investment. The administration hopes that its federal seed money would stimulate $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment.

But the plan has been met with resistance from Democrats, whose votes would be necessary for legislation to pass and who would prefer more direct federal investment. Democrats expressed concerns that the administration’s proposal would amount to a giveaway for the wealthy and could lead to more tolling.

“The Trump infrastructure plan is like a Hollywood facade — it may look real from afar, but in truth, it’s a flat mirage,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “The Trump plan has the skin of an infrastructure plan, but it lacks the guts.”

The budget includes border wall funding

Trump promised during the campaign to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and his budget proposal emphasizes this goal.

The administration said it is seeking $18 billion over fiscal years 2018 and 2019 for the wall.

The request on the border wall comes as Congress attempts to pass some type of immigration legislation by March 5.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum want to provide a legislative solution to help those who came to the U.S. illegally as children and have benefited from the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. But there are disagreements over what border security measures and additional immigration changes should be included in the package.

The Senate this week is scheduled to start a freewheeling debate on immigration, where lawmakers will offer competing proposals to see which one can get enough votes to clear the chamber.

“We fully anticipate getting some type of deal on DACA that would provide for the building of the entire southern border [wall] and all of the infrastructure that goes with it,” Mulvaney said.

Military spending gets a boost

Trump frequently talks about wanting to boost the military, and the Pentagon is a big winner in the budget.

While the White House proposed significantly cutting or eliminating other agencies and programs, the administration is proposing an $80 billion increase in the Defense Department’s budget for fiscal 2019, compared to the level enacted in fiscal 2017.

“The budget builds a more lethal, ready, and larger joint force that, combined with a robust system of allies and partners, would sustain American influence and preserve stable regional balances of power that have proven conducive to peace and prosperity,” the document states.

There’s plenty of red meat for Republicans

Many proposals in the budget reflect Republican priorities, a move that could help energize Trump’s base ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

In addition to the proposed border wall funding, increase in defense spending and changes to welfare programs, the budget also calls for ObamaCare repeal.

The budget additionally proposes to eliminate federal agencies that Republicans have viewed as wasteful federal spending, such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The budget also calls for restructuring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency much criticized by the GOP, by subjecting it to congressional appropriations.

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