Especially in Washington
I am very concerned with the package of budget cuts proposed by President Trump. Either we have a solid partnership with Washington, or we don’t. Domestic budget priorities always reflect the mood of the White House and Congress on how fairly cities and towns, and their residents, should be treated.
Let me highlight some spending reductions that really concern me at the moment:
- Elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). Colorado’s 17 municipalities that receive direct disbursements, known as “entitlement communities,” shared some $27 million in 2015, while the state received nearly $8 million for disbursement to non-entitlement local governments. Cities and towns use CDBG dollars to fund both municipal programs as well as contracting services through nonprofit entities. Housing programs are the major focus, but city council decisions on where to spend CDBG money reflects local needs. Among the wide variety of programs that benefit: public housing, homeless facilities, homeownership assistance, food banks, mental health services, child care services, and senior citizen services.
- Reduction of the EPA Superfund program budget by 30 percent. Seventeen Colorado cities and towns are directly impacted by the 25 Superfund sites in the state.
- Reduction of Amtrak funding by $630 million to eliminate long distance routes including the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief that serve Colorado. Coloradans board Amtrak trains in Fort Morgan, Denver, Winter Park/Fraser, Granby, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Lamar, La Junta, and Trinidad. The state is working with local governments and Amtrak on plans to expand service to Pueblo.
- Elimination of the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes passenger flights to rural areas. Cortez, Pueblo, and Alamosa would lose passenger air service.
- Elimination of TIGER transportation grants that have funded such projects as railroad crossing quiet zones in Windsor, Southwest Chief track improvements in southeast Colorado, and North I-25 improvements impacting Johnstown, Loveland, Windsor, and Fort Collins.
- Reduction of funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development programs such as the water and wastewater loan and grant program (recent projects include Wiggins, Crook, and Del Norte) and the rural single-family housing direct loan program.
There also is a threat to the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. The greatest impact Congress can have on improving our nation’s infrastructure is by retaining the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. Local government investments in infrastructure financed through municipal bonds are two-and-one-half times that of all federal infrastructure investment. Eliminating or reducing municipal bond tax-exempt status would drive up the cost of financing infrastructure both for municipal budgets and for taxpayers.
Elimination of the state and local government tax deduction on federal tax returns would result in double taxation for American taxpayers. In Colorado, one-third of taxpayers use it with an average deduction of $2,796. It is not just the top tier income levels making use of the deduction – 40 percent of taxpayers in the $50,000 to $75,000 bracket take the deduction, which has been a fundamental element in the federal income tax code since its inception more than a century ago.
These are a few items at the moment on my mind. If you agree, I hope you will contact the members of our federal delegation during this summer recess. I have a strong suspicion Sens. Bennet and Gardner and Reps. Buck, Coffman, DeGette, Lamborn, Perlmutter, Polis, and Tipton want to hear from you.
Let me know the results of your contacts. A continued Washington-municipal partnership is vital.