Peduto says Trump budget would be 'devastating' for Pittsburgh
March 22, 2017 12:00 AM
Mayor Bill Peduto said Donald Trump's budget would be “devastating” for the city, striking the most vulnerable residents first.
By Adam Smeltz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh City Council urged Congress on Tuesday to reject President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, arguing the plan’s “draconian cuts” in local funding would have dire consequences for at-risk communities and human service organizations.
“It’s not really taking into consideration major U.S. cities,” said Councilman Corey O’Connor, who sponsored a resolution against the federal spending blueprint. “And it’s not just major U.S. cities, but it’s surrounding areas, as well.”
The all-Democratic council voted 7-0 for the resolution, which is largely a symbolic gesture. Members Theresa Kail-Smith and Deborah Gross were absent.
A spokeswoman for the Republican administration referred an inquiry to the Office of Management and Budget, where communications director John Czwartacki said the budget proposal reflects Mr. Trump’s goal to “secure this country first.”
“That’s why the focus is mostly on national security, border security, meeting our sacred commitment to veterans” and aiding school choice and other priorities, Mr. Czwartacki said.
He said the plan would shift support from budget lines that are “sometimes wasteful, sometimes difficult to justify” while reinforcing “areas like the military, which have been woefully underfunded.” Such shortfalls “cause a national security threat that all citizens have to live with,” Mr. Czwartacki said.
“It’s about having compassion for people, not just programs,” he said. “We have programs out there that are designed to help people — they sound really great — but they don’t always do the job.”
The plan for the 2018 fiscal year calls for spending increases of 5.9 percent to about 10 percent for veterans affairs, homeland security and defense. Other departments would see reductions, including a 13.2 percent cut for housing and urban development. Health and human services would see a 16.6 percent cut.
In Pittsburgh, the budget would sever nearly $13 million in annual Community Development Block Grant funding, according to City Council. Mr. O’Connor estimated that more than 50 groups benefit from that money, ranging from food banks to arts education organizations.
The proposal would eliminate the CDBG program, which also contributes to affordable housing, workforce development and other efforts in Pittsburgh, according to council. Mayor Bill Peduto said the budget would be “devastating” for the city, striking the most vulnerable residents first.
“Democrat and Republican mayors from around this country agree that this budget is dangerous to this country,” Mr. Peduto said. “It has been universally panned by the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, as well as all other local government agencies.”
Including cuts in home heating assistance, the plan would mean an estimated $50 million less in federal funding throughout Allegheny County, said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills. That figure does not include projected local losses under the National Institutes of Health. Mr. Doyle said NIH grants would likely mean some $100 million for institutions in the Pittsburgh area.
“That means we lose people, too,” Mr. Doyle said. “We [would] lose researchers because their projects get shut down, and then we lose the talent.”
He doubts the proposal could win passage in the House and Senate. “There just isn’t anything about this budget to like.”
An aide to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, was less combative.
“The president’s budget proposal is a reflection of priorities he laid out over the last two years,” spokeswoman Carly Atchison said in a statement. She said Mr. Murphy “shares many of the same goals” and will work on a congressional budget to support the coal, steel and manufacturing base, better trade deals and veterans’ care, among other priorities.
The Associated Press contributed. Adam Smeltz: 412-263-2625, email@example.com, @asmeltz.
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