WASHINGTON—On February 12, President Trump submitted his $4.4 trillion fiscal 2019 budget request to Congress. This budget did not take into account the higher caps on spending in a budget deal passed by Congress and signed by the president last week. President Trump will likely submit an addendum to his budget, which allocates this additional amount of spending.
Last year, President Trump proposed significant cuts in his budget, however, Congress reinstated many of his proposed cuts. We expect the same this year since the budget resolution signed last week called for increases in the caps on spending.
Here is a summary of the proposed numbers in President Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget request that affect Indian tribes. All noted increases or decreases in funding is based on a comparison to fiscal 2018 continuing resolution (CR) levels. First, the Trump budget proposes $11.7 billion for the U.S. Department of the Interior, which is a significant cut of about $1.8 billion. Within the Interior budget, it includes $2.4 billion for Indian Affairs, which is a significant $444 million decrease.
From the Indian Affairs budget request, Interior proposes $350 million for Public Safety and Justice, which is a $33 million decrease. Interior’s budget request for road maintenance is $28.3 million, which is a decrease of about $1.8 million. Some additional highlights include Interior’s proposed decrease to social services by $19 million, decrease to Indian Child Welfare Act by $5 million and decrease to the resources management line item by $45 million.
Contrary to the focus on infrastructure, Interior proposes a $57.4 million decrease in overall construction funding. Education construction takes the biggest hit where Interior proposes a cut of $59.5 million. The Resource Management Construction line item is proposed for an increase of $1.8 million, however, as a part of this line item, Interior requests a $149,000 decrease in funding for the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project.
With regards to the Office of Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation (ONHIR), Interior has made a budget request of $3 million to establish a Navajo and Hopi Program Office within the Office of the Special Trustee (OST) and implement a phased closure of ONHIR. Interior indicates that the OST will assume responsibility for the development of a transition plan and a transfer of land management activities in 2019. ONHIR has yet to publicly issue their budget request.
The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) is proposed to be cut by $144 million to $742 million. The 2019 budget prioritizing of core mission programs at BIE-funded schools includes $625.9 million for Elementary and Secondary programs, which is a decrease of about $85 million. In addition, $74 million is requested for Tribal Grant Support Costs for Tribes operating BIE-funded schools, which is a decrease of $18.5 million; $92.7 million requested for Post-Secondary programs, which is a decrease of $47.1 million; and $23.3 million for Education Management, which is a decrease of $11.5 million. As indicated previously, the budget proposed to cut $59.5 million for education construction to $72.9 million.
Additional BIE reductions include proposed funding decreases to the following programs: Early Childhood and Family Development ($18.5 million decrease), Education program enhancements ($5.8 million decrease), Johnson O’Malley Assistance Grants ($14.7 million decrease), ISEP Program Adjustments ($2.8 million decrease), and Tribal Education Departments ($2.5 million decrease).
As part of Interior’s budget, they are proposing legislation to create a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would be funded by federal energy leasing and development revenue that will be utilized to pay for repairs and improvements at BIE funded schools, as well national wildlife refuges and national parks. Interior expects that creation of this fund will provide about $18 billion for these repairs and improvements. BIA estimates that the deferred maintenance backlog for BIE schools is $634 million, not including replacement costs for schools in the worst condition.
In addition to BIE’s budget, the U.S. Department of Education also requested $165 million for the Indian education budget, which is an increase of $1.1 million back to the fiscal year 2017 level. This funding provides a slight increase in the Special Programs for Indian Children to $58 million. Additionally, the budget proposes $6.6 million for National Activities, which would allow support for the continuation of about $2 million in awards for Native language immersions grants and funding for new grants to tribal education agencies for State-Tribal Education Partnerships.
Interior also requested $4 million for the Navajo Nation Water Development Resources Trust Fund which is the same level as fiscal CR 2018. The Interior budget request for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is about $9 million which is about the same as the fiscal 2018 CR level and, within the Bureau of Reclamation budget, it proposes $69.6 million for the project, which is about $17.4 million decrease. Interior indicates that the funds for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project will be used for the San Juan Conjunctive Use Wells and the San Juan Navajo Irrigation Project Rehabilitation.
For the Indian Health Service, President Trump requests $5.4 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS), which is $413 million or eight percent above the fiscal 2018 CR level. The special diabetes program will be budgeted at $150 million. Health Care Facilities will be budgeted at $80 million, which is $38 million lower, however, the construction of the Alamo Health Center in New Mexico and the Dilkon Alternative Rural Health Center in Arizona will continue to be funded. Contract support costs will continue to be fully funded. The budget also proposes to eliminate and discontinue the Health Education Program (loss of $19 million), the Community Health Representatives Program (loss of $60 million) and the Tribal Management Grant Program (loss of $2 million).
In regards to housing, the budget requests $600 million for the Indian Housing Block Grant Program, which is $54 million decrease. Additionally, the Tribal HUD-VASH has a $4 million request, which is a $3 million decrease. The budget eliminates the Indian Community Development Block Grant funding, which was at about $60 million previously. Lastly, the budget does not request any funds for the Indian Housing Loan Guarantee Program (IHLGP), because the administration sees it as duplicative funding. The IHGLP was previously at about $7 million.
In regards to justice and public safety programs, the U.S. Department of Justice reported budget requests of $486 million in total resources for the Indian Country, $93.8 million for the Office of Justice Programs, $10 million for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants in Indian Country, $55 million for the Office of Violence Against Women, and $1 million for the Office of Tribal Justice. Additionally, another $211 million will be made available for other Indian Country investments in other USDOJ Components.
In regards to the U.S. Department of Transportation, their budget request for the Tribal Transportation Program is projected to be $495 million, which is an increase of $10 million. Similar to last year, the budget request also proposes to eliminate funding for the TIGER grant. Despite the budget deletion for this program in fiscal 2018, Congress funded it.
In regards to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the budget request is $6.1 billion, which is a significant $1.9 billion decrease. It also requests to eliminate 21 percent of the EPA workforce. In addition, the budget requests $2.9 billion for State and Tribal Assistance Grants, which is an approximately a $574 million decrease.
With regards to the Department of Energy, the budget request for the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs is $10 million.
With regards to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the budget requests $153 million for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), which is the same amount requested last from last year. The budget also requests $73.2 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is a decrease of about $395 million. The Child Nutrition Programs is budgeted for $23.1 billion which is a decrease of about $1.1 billion.
The budget for USDA also requests $30 million in Broadband Program grants and $23 million for broadband direct loans, both of which has a $4 million decrease. Loans for telecommunications infrastructure are budgeted at $690 million and loans for electric infrastructure is at $5.5 billion, both of which are at the same fiscal 2018 CR level. The budget also requests to eliminate guaranteed loans and grants for Water and Waste Disposal Program but will keep $1.2 billion in direct loans. The budget proposes to eliminate $1 billion in funding for rural business and economic development loans and grants.
President Trump also presented a $200 billion infrastructure initiative, however, the fiscal 2019 budget request also calls for sharp cuts to infrastructure spending, such as a 19.2 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s budget as well as other programs. Trump’s infrastructure initiative contains a number of controversial items for Democrats. So, whether Congress will work out funding for infrastructure is yet to be seen, but any infrastructure legislation will require 60 votes to pass the Senate.
In addition to this 2019 fiscal budget, in a separate request, the Trump administration requested an additional $88 billion to be added to the current fiscal 2018 appropriation package. This includes additional funding of $196 million for two Indian water rights settlements, additional $1.9 billion for the backlog of overall Interior deferred maintenance including that of BIA, and an additional $600 million for IHS for services and facilities to maintain current services at 2017 levels and technology modernization.
Now that President Trump has submitted his budget request to Congress, the Congressional appropriation committees will work on the fiscal 2019 appropriations, while still trying to pass a fiscal 2018 appropriations bills. As part of Congress’ work on fiscal 2019 appropriations, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will hold hearings on the Indian Affairs appropriations, which will likely be in late March or early April of 2018. The Navajo Nation typically provides testimony for these hearings and will do so for the upcoming hearings.