* Plan foresees 28 pct cut for State Department
* EPA will also see sharp cuts
* Defense spending to rise by $54 bln under plans
(Recasts with details from congressional source)
By David Morgan and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, March 15 President Donald Trump will
propose deep cuts for foreign aid and environmental protection
and a steep increase in military spending in a budget plan to be
released on Thursday, a congressional source said.
The budget plan for fiscal 2018 will call for cuts of 28
percent for the State Department, the source, who was briefed on
the outline of Trump's plans, told Reuters.
Trump is proposing a 10 percent increase in defense
spending, equivalent to $54 billion, and a 6 percent increase in
funding for homeland security, the source said.
To fund those increases, he is seeking deep reductions in
programs such as public broadcasting, funding for the arts and
science, and heating subsidies. Those programs have been
targeted by Republican politicians before, but in many cases the
proposed cuts have failed to make it through Congress.
The blueprint highlights Trump's priorities for government
spending and sources say it includes a funding cut of up to a
third for the Environmental Protection Agency. But it is
ultimately up to Congress to decide how to allocate funds.
Even though Trump's Republicans control both the House of
Representatives and the Senate, the budget is likely to face
resistance. Some moderate Republicans have already expressed
unease with some of the proposed cuts.
"They're really going to be cutting into bone," said Kenneth
Baer, a former associate director at the Office of Management
and Budget who helped draft former Democratic President Barack
Obama's first four budgets.
The proposal includes $30 billion in supplemental funds for
fiscal 2017 for defense, primarily border security, according to
the source. It also includes $1.5 billion in 2017 and $2.6
billion in 2018 for Trump's promised wall on the southwestern
border with Mexico.
Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
will be phased out under the plan, the source said.
The document will begin months of debate on government
spending, with Democrats and moderate Republicans worried the
budget could force tough decisions on popular programs such as
aid for disabled children and hot meals for the elderly, and
conservatives pushing for more cuts down the line.
New administrations typically submit to Congress what is
known as a "skinny budget," a broad outline of spending
proposals, in their initial months in office. Lengthy volumes of
fiscal plans and projections follow a couple of months later.
But the Trump budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct.
1, 2017, may be more truncated than usual, said three budget
experts interviewed by Reuters.
The document is expected to look only at one narrow piece of
the budget: “discretionary” programs that are subject to renewal
every year and not so-called entitlement programs such as the
Social Security retirement program and the Medicare and Medicaid
"This one appears as though it will be one of the skinniest
budgets of recent memory. Possibly emaciated," said Maya
MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal
Social programs such as Social Security and Medicare account
for the majority of overall U.S. federal government costs. Trump
pledged to protect the two programs during the 2016 campaign.
"If they put out a budget as skinny as advertised, it might
not really tell us a whole lot about the president's overall
budget and the direction of fiscal policy," said Robert Bixby,
executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan
budget reform advocacy group.
The "skinny budget" is not expected to address other
potentially expensive promises Trump made during his campaign.
Trump wants to boost infrastructure spending while cutting
taxes. Although he has not given details on how or when that
would happen, the pledges worry Romina Boccia, a fiscal policy
expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “You could blow
up the deficit even more,” she said.
If Trump sticks with his campaign spending promises but
decides to make a bigger push to rein in the deficit, more cuts
could be in store for programs such as food assistance for the
poor, college Pell Grants for the poor, and some income
assistance for poor senior citizens, said Sharon Parrott, senior
fellow at the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities.
"That’s what’s left," Parrot said in an interview.
Trump's "skinny budget" will also make funding requests for
the remaining months of the current fiscal year.
As long as increases in military spending are offset with
cuts elsewhere for 2018, keeping the deficit in check,
Republican Representative Steve Pearce said he was willing to
wait patiently for broader fiscal belt-tightening down the road.
"We’re playing a very long game here in the debt and
deficit," Pearce said in an interview.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Writing by Nick
Tattersall; Editing by Kieran Murray and Peter Cooney)