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Trump administration’s budget calls for deeper spending cuts

March 19, 2019 GMT

Their proposed spending cuts last year didn’t make much headway but the Trump administration remains unbowed, delivering details Monday of the new budget that calls for even deeper cuts to what they characterized as government fat.

From “payment integrity” proposals, aimed at sweating more than $160 billion out of government, to $68 billion the administration thinks it can save by more closely policing who claims popular tax credits, the White House is going big on waste, fraud and abuse this year.

All told, the Office of Management and Budget says it’s eyeing $2.7 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years in an aggressive bid to point out inefficient programs to a Capitol Hill that sometimes seems to be running on autopilot when it comes to spending.

After failing to win many cuts from its first two budgets, the White House has been defensive about its chances this time.

“Congress has been ignoring the president’s spending reductions for the last two years,” said Russell Vought, the acting White House budget director. “The president has continually called for fiscal restraint and will persist in his efforts to end the wasteful spending.”

The cuts were detailed in a 204-page document submitted to Congress on Monday, as part of the full budget submission. It comes a week after the administration sent up a briefer budget outline, with broad strokes of the $4.7 trillion spending plan for fiscal year 2020.

The White House says it can save $6.3 billion over 10 years by giving Medicare expanded authority to more closely monitor services prone to improper payments, such as rehab.

And the government could save $68 billion enforcing rules requiring taxpayers to provide a valid Social Security number before they can claim some tax credits.

On the shallower end of the cutting pool, the White House wants to squeeze out $483 million over 10 years by increasing verification of households on free or reduced lunch programs in schools.

And eliminating federal funding for public broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would save about $680 million next year. Those are perennials that President Trump and his Republican predecessors have tried before and they’ve been roundly rejected on Capitol Hill.

Same with calls for the elimination of the Denali Commission, the Delta Regional Authority, and the Northern Border Regional Commission. The White House says the commissions duplicate other efforts. Eliminating them would collectively save $50 million in 2020.

That’s not even a rounding error in a $4.7 trillion budget, but the programs have staying power.

The proposal would also cut by $420 million next year funding for geographic environmental programs to restore and maintain bodies of water like the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay.

The administration said state and local groups are capable of picking up the slack, and that zeroing out funding for such geographic programs would refocus the Environmental Protection Agency on “core national work.”

But lawmakers from the Midwest and mid-Atlantic have already said the proposed cuts aren’t going to fly.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called the proposed federal cuts to Chesapeake Bay programs a “total betrayal.”

“These cuts are potentially devastating to restoration efforts at such a critical time,” said Mr. Hogan, a Republican who hasn’t ruled out a primary challenge to Mr. Trump in 2020. “The Chesapeake Bay is a state and national treasure, and federal support is essential to improving the waterway’s health.”

Some conservatives on Capitol Hill, though, said Mr. Trump deserved praise for the attempt.

“The deeper you dig into the federal budget, the more areas you can find to cut,” said Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican. “Many of my constituents back in Indiana understand that you cut $10 million here and $10 million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about billions, and billions add up to trillions.”

The White House on Monday also announced that it intends to impose cuts for next year’s spending bills to abide by discretionary spending caps that will reset on Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Like the rest of the budget, though, Congress is likely to have the last word on the caps.