Cross Currents

Don't lose track of the languishing federal budget

Column by Bill Christopher
Posted 7/25/17

The log jam just keeps getting longer and deeper.

For those who thought putting a businessman in the White House would introduce good business practices, get effective results and drain the swamp …

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Cross Currents

Don't lose track of the languishing federal budget

Posted

The log jam just keeps getting longer and deeper.

For those who thought putting a businessman in the White House would introduce good business practices, get effective results and drain the swamp in Washington, D.C., you may be wondering what went astray.

While the Trump Administration is mired down in the Russian thing as well as the crushing blow on the Republican Senate being unable to achieve a federal health care plan, other key issues are adrift. For example, Trump's budget which was announced back in May, is lingering as is his proposal to rewrite the tax code and build The Wall.

The reason I mention the federal budget is that the public needs to keep an eye on it. It's not too early to be contacting your U.S. Senators and Congressional representatives about your concerns and priorities. Eventually, the budget will make its way to the top of the pile.

A balancing act among interests

As you will recall, the Administration's proposed budget called for a 10 percent increase in military spending. In order to accomplish this, domestic programs become the target for significant budget cuts.

While I too want a strong military capability for our country, let's not do it on the back of affordable housing, public education and other domestic programs. In my mind, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing approach. Increase the military budget, but at a more moderate rate.

At the same time, budget analysts should drill down on traditional spending in each branch of the military and eliminate what I call "bureaucracy creep." There has to be a lot of those "$100 pencils and $1,000 toilets" which we read about. There is certainly justification to re-evaluate categories of funding within the various broad budget categories such as public education, housing programs and foreign aid.

Examples of funding programs

In the case of public education, here is a partial list of programs which are targeted in the proposed budget.

Let's start with the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program which is on the chopping block to reduce funding $1.1 billion. This supports before, after and summer school programs that provide safe spaces and opportunities for academic enrichment for nearly two million kids. Perhaps more definitive results of this spending are needed to justify either keeping, reducing or cutting the program.

Arts in Education stand to be cut $26.9 million. Funds are earmarked for serving students from low-income families and students with disabilities. Is this a program which should be funded by the federal government? How about using private foundation funding or state and local funding?

Native Hawaiian Education funding of $33.3 million is proposed to be cut. This program supports "supplemental education services for a high-need student population facing unique challenges in obtaining a high-quality education." Why is Hawaii singled out for such funding? The justification to fund this program sounds quite universal in its intent.

Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program, at $26.9 million and Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants/Striving Readers proposed $189.6 million budget seem to be duplicative of other literacy programs funded by the federal government as well as state and local funding. Literacy is a critical area, but perhaps combining programs and eliminating duplication and administrative overhead is warranted.

Call it "a free for all"

There are a lot more distinctive programs that are listed and I could go on, but I think you get the point. Rather than simply keep funding each separate program, there should be unbiased critical analysis before making budget cuts. The reason that I listed public education programs is simply that I had access to such a list. The same arguments hold true for every major component of the federal budget which is not a part of "fixed funding" i.e. paying interest on the federal debt.

The federal budget has to be approved by Congress. As we have seen, the clear differences between Democrats and Republicans plus the divisions within the GOP are causing the passage of any substantive legislation to be a huge challenge. The federal budget is bound to be a free for all within Congress.

Happy 125th anniversary

The Westminster Presbyterian Church will be celebrating its 125th anniversary on August 5th with its gala event at City Park Recreation Center.

First known as University Presbyterian Church of Westminster, records reflect "Sabbath services" commenced on January 3, 1892 at the Harris Park school house (not the current elementary school) by Rev. H.S. Beavis. With 26 charter members (some of whom were connected to Westminster University, now the Pillar of Fire building), the Presbyterians embarked upon a long and notable role in the Westminster community.

In 1925, a church was built at 74th Avenue and Bradburn Boulevard to be closer to the town's center. Then in 1957 the current facilities were built and then added offices and community room/library in the 1980's. As the community's first church, it served as a social gathering place as well as a house of worship. Over the years, members of the church and its clergy have been instrumental Westminster community leaders including mayors, city council members and key city staff members.

Happy 125th anniversary to the church and its congregation. That is quite an accomplishment.

Gala tickets are $50 each for non-church members. For more information, contact Bob Briggs at 303-981-4141.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

Bill Christopher

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