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Weekly Update: The President's Budget

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Washington, February 26, 2018 | comments
Weekly Update: The President's Budget
By Rob Wittman
February 24, 2018

Last week, President Trump released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019. The President’s budget is only the first step in the annual budgeting and appropriations process. And I’m sure you know, the Administration’s FY19 proposal is simply that - a proposal. Any changes in actual funding levels requires Congressional approval.

This budget proposal rightly prioritizes defense and national security. The proposal also aims to control runaway spending on mandatory programs, which are the major drivers of our debt. And I support the efforts in this budget to reduce the deficit and debt. I am also pleased with the funding dedicated for Virginia tribes. As you may know, President Trump signed into law my bill called the Thomasina E. Jordan Virginia Tribal Recognition Act which federally recognizes six Virginia tribes. The funding would give the six tribes the initial federal support needed to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities and operations of a tribal government.

There are, however, some areas I am concerned about moving forward; specifically, insufficient funds to build our Navy, a severe budget cut to Chesapeake Bay programs, and major changes for federal employees.

I was happy to see much-needed funding allocated toward our common defense and national security in the form of $686.1 billion. The proposal includes adding 24,100 troops and a pay increase of 2.6% for our hardworking service members. While the FY19 budget is an improvement over the proposed FY18 budget, I believe it still falls short in shipbuilding. The Navy’s own Force Structure Assessment from December 2016 unequivocally called for a 355 ship Navy with 38 amphibious ships. However, the 30-year shipbuilding plan peaks at 342 ships in FY41 and then decreases. It never reaches 355. Less than 355 ships and less than 38 amphibious ships are both unacceptable scenarios for me. Fortunately, Congress has a say in all of this.

The Chesapeake Bay is critical to the environmental and economic health of our region and the Commonwealth. And we have seen the success of the Bay Program through cleaner water and more oysters and blue crabs, which demonstrates that the federal and multi-state partnership to restore the Bay is working. Severely reducing funding for this program would be shortsighted and unacceptable. I will continue making that case for adequate funding to my colleagues on the Budget and Appropriations Committees as they formulate the House Budget Bill. Last year we faced a similar situation, and we restored over $60 million in funding for the Chesapeake Bay. I, along with many of my colleagues, sent a letter to the White House advocating against these budget cuts that will prevent the successful Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts and highlighting the critical role the Bay plays in the region's economy.

The federal workforce is full of dedicated and committed citizens who work hard in the name of public service. Therefore, I am disappointed that several provisions impacting federal employees are being used as a pay-for in this budget, including increases in employee contributions to the Federal Employee Retirement System. We continue to ask our federal civilian workforce to do more while reducing their take home pay and that is the wrong approach. As Congress works on appropriations going forward, I hope we reconsider unfairly targeting the federal employees to pay for other government operations. We must continue to pursue reducing mandatory spending which is the major driver of our increased deficit and debt.

It is now up to Congress to review the President’s budget and make decisions about future spending. I will be working with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committees to ensure Virginia's interests are protected during that process, especially when it comes to building our Navy, the Chesapeake Bay Program, and our nation’s federal employees.
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