Wolf joins bipartisan group of Midwestern governors resisting Trump’s Great Lakes cuts

Driftwood on Lake Erie. Photo by WikiMedia Commons

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf joined with a bipartisan group of Great Lakes state governors Wednesday to rip proposed Trump administration budget cuts to a federal clean-up initiative.

Trump’s 2020 budget request, unveiled Monday, calls for a 90 percent cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, The Michigan Advance reported this week. The initiative, first created in 2010, has “provided funding to 16 federal organizations to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem,” its website reads.

In a statement, the governors said “the Great Lakes hold 21 percent of the world’s freshwater” and argued “they are among the most vital ecological and economic resources in America.” Because of that, “slashing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by 90 percent would cost our states thousands of good-paying jobs, hurt our tourism and recreation industries, and jeopardize public health. This is a risk we simply can’t afford to take.”

Wolf signed the statement with Democratic Govs. Gretchen Whitmer, of Michigan; Tony Evers, of Wisconsin; and J.B. Pritzker, of Illinois; as well as Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, of Ohio.

“Cleaning up the Great Lakes shouldn’t be a partisan issue. That’s why as Great Lakes Governors, we are committed to partnering with our congressional delegations and our fellow governors across the region to protect funding for this critical work,” the bipartisan quintet wrote. “We strongly urge President Trump and Vice President [Mike] Pence, who is a former Great Lakes governor himself, to do what’s best for America by fully restoring funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”

This is the second time the White House has tried to cut the program. In his first budget in 2017, Trump wanted to eliminate the program entirely. In 2018, Trump proposed slashing the program from $300 million to $40 million, The Advance reported.

The proposal hit a brick wall in Congress. The Great Lakes restoration effort netted $308 million in fiscal year 2018 and $300 million in fiscal year 2019, according to The Advance.

This is the second time this week that Wolf has dug in against potential Trump environmental cuts. On Monday, the Democratic administration said it would resist any effort to cut clean-up funds for the Chesapeake Bay.

As was the case with the Great Lakes effort, the Trump administration has also proposed slashing the Chesapeake Bay program.

During his first year in office, Trump sought to eliminate funding for the program entirely. And in 2018, he suggested cutting funding from $73 million to $7.3 million — a 90 percent reduction.

The administration’s 2020 budget proposes cutting federal spending for the Chesapeake Bay program from its current level of $73 million to $7.3 million.

Susan J. Demas, of the Michigan Advance, a Newsroom site, contributed to this story.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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