Thousands of Jobs and Environmental Programs Are at Risk
Among the many departments President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would cut, none would see a higher percentage reduction than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was called before the House Appropriations subcommittee, where representatives from both sides of the aisle criticized the budget proposal and demanded that the deep cuts into the EPA be shaved.
About 31%, or $2.4 billion annually, will be withdrawn from the EPA budget. The administration has gone on record saying that it wants to dramatically reduce the size and scope of the EPA, which has many lawmakers concerned that the department will be unable to fulfill its job if it is reduced so drastically.
The EPA currently employs 15,000 people, whose jobs would have to be similarly shorn in order to make up for the large spending cuts.
Pruitt believes that many of the jobs that would have to be shed will come as a result of buyouts, an ongoing hiring freeze, and retirements instead of layoffs.
“About 20 percent of the agency is eligible for retirement today, and that’s going to increase over the next several years,” Pruitt told lawmakers. “That’s how we’re going to address the proposed cuts to personnel.”
Despite a lack of support from both the right and the left, Pruitt continued.
“I believe we can fulfill the mission of our agency with a trimmed budget, with proper leadership and management,” he said, adding that the Trump administration’s proposal “supports EPA’s highest priorities” while aiming “to reduce redundancies and inefficiencies.”
The proposed budget is unlikely to pass fully intact as it is currently constructed without undergoing major changes in the House and Senate. But the extent of these changes and which parts will be shifted is still unknown to the public.
The Republicans hold both Houses in Congress and therefore could theoretically pass the bill as it stands now, or at least, with only minimal changes. The main concern is which parts of the proposed bill will see the light of day and which ones will be reduced. In the case of the EPA, the bipartisan anger at the move could result in a change during the discussions. At this point, however, there is no certainty as to what will and won’t make it through the draft changes.
“EPA head defends White House’s plan for massive cuts to his agency,” The Washington Post, June 15, 2017.