'Not going to happen': Hawaii's representatives in DC vow to fight Trump budget

'Not going to happen': Hawaii's representatives in DC vow to fight Trump budget

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Members of Hawaii's Congressional delegation pledged to fight the president's proposed federal budget, which seeks deep cuts to a number of programs in order to bolster military spending and other administration priorities.

How would the president's budget be felt in Hawaii? The full extent of the proposed cuts aren't yet clear.

But Hawaii's representatives in Congress said Hawaii could lose significant programs, and warned the cuts could lead to big layoffs.

"President Trump's budget is a statement of his values," said U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, in a statement.

"While he clearly supports a strong Department of Defense, as do I, his budget prioritization cannot come at the expense of other programs essential to Hawaii and the well-being of Hawaii's people.  I will fight for a budget that puts Hawaii first."

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, meanwhile, said he's ready to fight "to make sure we protect federal funding for Hawaii."

"The president's budget proposal is simply that – a proposal.  It's not going to happen," said Schatz, D-Hawaii. "If enacted, President Trump's proposed budget cuts would have a terrible impact on Hawaii, but Congress holds the purse strings, not the president."

Trump's budget increases defense spending by $54 billion and sets aside nearly $3 billion to pay for a U.S-Mexico border wall, but it makes huge cuts to other government agencies. The president wants to reduce the EPA's budget by 31 percent, cut funding to the Department of Agriculture by 21 percent, and slash the Department of State's budget by 28 percent.

And a number of programs could be eliminated, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Economic Development Administration, and state grants for teacher training and community learning centers.

The Hawaii losers under Trump's budget proposal range from the East-West Center to Hawaii's Sea Grant program to a popular after school program.

At Jarrett Middle School in Palolo and other campuses across the state, students get free food, tutoring, and enrichment classes like art and sports, as part of the After School All-Stars Program.

"I think it would be devastating to the lives of these children," said site coordinator Christianne Jardin. "A lot of the students come here because they don't have support at home. They don't have guidance at home. Basically, for some of these students, that snack is the only type of meal they will get after school."

Trump is also proposing to eliminate federal funding to the East-West Center. The institution, with a staff of 125, got a $17 million appropriation in the current fiscal year, and that accounted for about half of its revenues.

The center's mission centers on education, professional and leadership exchanges and policymaking research. In 2016, the center had some 469 student fellows from 53 countries and territories.

Meanwhile, Hawaii's Sea Grant program could also lose its federal appropriation. The program gets about $4 million in federal funds for educational outreach, research and training.

Republican State Rep. Gene Ward said it's not necessarily a bad thing for the federal government to scale back, and it up to Hawaii's Congressional delegation to find a balance.

"We've got to get our delegation on board to start cooperating with the president to bring some of this money back in," he said. "Let's get on board the Trump train and get on with it. The sky is not going to fall."

Only three department would get a boost under Trumo's budget: The Defense Department, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs.

The president's budget only covers discretionary spending, which includes funds that Congress can adjust every year.

"The president would completely eliminate programs that support Hawaii's affordable housing efforts, clean energy investment, and opportunity for educational advancement and community service," said U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.

"It would end the Essential Air Service program that serves as a lifeline to Kalaupapa, Molokai, eliminates the TIGER grant program, which funded improvements to Saddle Road on Hawaii Island and Pier 29 on Oahu, and would threaten the Impact Aid program that ensures that every student in Hawaii's public schools receives a quality education."

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.