Minnesota stands to lose hundreds of teachers and tens of millions of dollars in aid for poor families, low-income college students and environmental programs under President Donald Trump's budget proposal, Gov. Mark Dayton wrote to Minnesota's members of Congress this week.
In the letter released Tuesday, the DFL governor implored the state's representatives in Washington to reject a plan he said would disproportionately hurt children, elderly people and those living in poverty.
"On behalf of the people of Minnesota, I request that you voice your opposition to the President's budget blueprint and reject the draconian cuts it proposes to programs that serve thousands of our citizens," Dayton wrote.
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, the senior Minnesota Republican in Congress and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Congress would have the final say and, without getting specific, suggested he's not on board with all of Trump's priorities.
"The president's proposed budget is just that: a proposal," Paulsen said in a statement to the Star Tribune. "It is actually up to Congress to set the direction of the nation's budget, and I have some concern with several proposals outlined. I agree that Washington must get its fiscal house in order, but we can only achieve this through smart, targeted spending reductions while still making investments in critical areas."
As Dayton and state lawmakers enter the final stretch of crafting Minnesota's next two-year budget, the governor said uncertainty about federal spending is an impediment to informed decisions about the state's finances.
"While we always face risk that our revenue projections will change, we are seeing more uncertainty and risk than usual," he wrote.
The president's $1.1 trillion budget blueprint, released in February, boosts military spending by $54 billion, sets aside $2.6 billion to pay for a Mexican border wall and spends $1.4 billion on school vouchers. It slashes other federal departments to pay for those increases, including several that have a big impact on state-run programs in Minnesota.
That includes a 21 percent cut to the Department of Agriculture, 21 percent at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a nearly 18 percent cut at the U.S. Department of Education.
U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, another Minnesota Republican, called the proposal preliminary and noted a detailed budget is expected in May.
"There are certainly areas where the President's cuts are of concern," Emmer said in a statement, flagging in particular proposed cuts to U.S. foreign aid. He noted that foreign aid is "less than 1 percent of our entire federal budget but plays an important role to further our humanitarian efforts and bolster our national security."
Dayton instead highlighted the likely trickle-down effects in Minnesota should Congress approve Trump's plan. Among them: Minnesota expects to get $7.8 million next year for the Community Services Block Grant program, which typically serves more than a half-million residents each year. Trump's budget would zero out that money, which benefits low-income people statewide.
A grant program for cities with fewer than 50,000 residents or counties with fewer than 200,000 residents would be eliminated. The Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program awarded $14 million last year to help with housing rehab and downtown revitalization projects in 30 small cities and counties across Minnesota, said Shane Delaney, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The cities of Ghent and Echo in southwest Minnesota got more than $1 million to help rehabilitate homes and build new wastewater lines. Blackduck, a northern Minnesota city, received nearly $889,000 for similar projects.
"Especially for greater Minnesota, a lot of these awards are for things that might not necessarily make the news, things like water and sewer lines and commercial rehabilitation," Delaney said. "But these are some nitty-gritty things that cities and local units of government need to operate."
Airports in Bemidji, Brainerd, Chisholm, International Falls and Thief River Falls could lose out with the proposed elimination of an aid program. Without that federal funding for regional airports, Dayton said, it's likely commercial airlines will stop flying there.
Other programs facing elimination include a grant program that helps schools in poor areas recruit and train teachers. Dayton said 500 Minnesota schools would lose out on about $31.7 million in funding.
Low-income renters and homeowners would see significant drops in funding, from the elimination of a program that helps poor people pay for heat in the winter (the state currently gets about $114 million for 133,000 households) to significant cuts in the number of federal housing vouchers available in Minnesota.
Beth Kodluboy, executive director of HOME Line, a Minneapolis-based organization that advocates for renters, said long waiting lists and growing demand for those vouchers show that any cut will be significant.
"It's really important that he weighs in and expresses concerns," she said of Dayton, "because that's where the pain is really felt: at the local level."