President Donald Trump’s new plan to siphon nearly all federal funding for the Great Lakes generated a wave of bipartisan backlash from Michigan lawmakers.
In the president’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019, released earlier today, he called for a 90 percent cut in funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), from $300 million to $30 million.
Last year, in the face of congressional opposition, Trump tried and failed to eliminate all spending for the Great Lakes, which are known as the largest freshwater body in the world. The White House budget message today said essentially that Great Lakes issues are a local matter. Lawmakers from the eight Great Lakes states will certainly fight the plan, along with a host of environmental groups.
The GLRI pays for clean-up projects and restoration of the Great Lakes’ waters, shorelines and adjoining wetlands. The lakes are credited with supporting 1.5 million jobs in the tourism, boating and fishing industries.
Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who authored the original bill to successfully fund the GLRI in 2010, was one of the first elected officials to respond to the proposed cut:
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned, we can’t take it for granted that others understand how important our water is,” said Stabenow, a co-chair of the congressional Great Lakes Task Force. “This is outrageous. People across Michigan spoke out and took action last year to stop these cuts and I know they’ll do so again.”
Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, another task force co-chair, said he would work in a bipartisan manner with Capitol Hill colleagues to maintain full funding for the GLRI.
“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative plays a leading role in preserving and restoring the Great Lakes ecology while strengthening the Great Lakes economy,” he said.
Trump’s proposal to drain the GLRI came within an Environmental Protection Agency budget that would chop EPA funding by $3 billion, or 34 percent.
Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint called the White House proposal a “draconian” plan that fails to appreciate the lakes:
“I strongly oppose President Trump’s reckless cuts to the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative helps to combat invasive species like Asian Carp and protects our freshwater lakes from pollution. These investments have bipartisan support because protecting our Great Lakes is not a partisan issue.
Congressman Fred Upton, a Republican from the town of St. Joseph located on Lake Michigan, also expressed disappointment with the Trump administration:
“Michigan deserves better than this. The health of our Great Lakes must be a higher priority. It’s clear that when it comes to the Great Lakes, our priorities are at odds with the administration.”
And Democratic Sen. Gary Peters belittled the president’s second attempt to target the GLRI.
“Once again, President Trump has proposed a budget that would cut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) by 90%. Last year, when Trump’s budget attempted to completely eliminate GLRI funding, I joined a bipartisan group in Congress to stop him. And I will do the same thing this year so GLRI has the full funding it needs to continue clean-up efforts on the Great Lakes.”