Budget cuts to Great Lakes protections are the wrong move

We find ourselves, for the second year, having to write an editorial denouncing President Trump’s budget proposal, specifically its proposed funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Once again, the budget proposal includes huge cuts in funding for this vital budget item that impacts every single person living, working and visiting the Great Lakes region. This year, the proposal cuts funding from almost $300 million to $30 million, around 90 percent.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been instrumental in cleaning up toxic pollution, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, controlling invasive species, and reducing farm and city runoff,” Jennifer McKay, policy director for Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, said in a story in the Petoskey News-Review.

Perhaps the president and his administration just do not realize the importance of the Great Lakes to not just the overall economy of this region, but the nation and it’s vital importance as a source of fresh water for millions of people?

As McKay pointed out in the story, “Investments in Great Lakes restoration create short-term jobs and lead to long-term economic benefits for the Great Lakes states and the country.”

She added, “A Brookings Institution report shows that every $1 invested in Great Lakes restoration generates at least $2 in return, making Great Lakes restoration one of the best investments in the federal budget. More recent research from Grand Valley State University suggests that the return on investment for certain projects may be closer to 6-to-1.”

“Aging sewers, invasive species and toxic pollutants are just a few of the pervasive threats that impact the region, endangering human and wildlife health, lowering property values and hurting the region’s economy. Cutting funding will slow restoration efforts, allowing problems to get worse and making them more expensive to solve,” McKay said in the article. “Ultimately, cutting spending on the Great Lakes won’t save money — It will cost the nation more.”

We were pleased to see that Senator Debbie Stabenow seems to agree the Great Lakes deserve to be protected at more adequate funding levels.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned, we can’t take it for granted that others understand how important our water is. This is outrageous,” Stabenow said in a statement included in the story in the Petoskey News-Review. “People across Michigan spoke out and took action last year to stop these cuts and I know they’ll do it again.”

While Stabenow voiced her displeasure at this funding cut, Representative Jack Bergmann also stressed the importance of the Great Lakes funding.

“I look forward to reviewing the administration’s budget suggestions and working with my colleagues on the budget committee to pass a balanced budget for 2019. It’s not lost on me that our country faces a severe budgetary crisis. We cannot continue down the road of reckless spending and irresponsible governing that has become the new normal over the past decade,” Bergman said. “Congress has the final say on funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Essential Air Service, and other important government services, and I will continue to fight to protect these important issues that directly affect the constituents of the First District. In the days and weeks ahead, I will continue my work with the House Budget Committee to pass a fiscally conservative budget for 2019 that remains focused on border security, defense and infrastructure.”

We must point out while the government doesn’t seem to think it has money for the Great Lakes, a vital feature of this region and the nation, the President’s budget does find $18 billion towards a border wall along the Mexican border — which the president insisted during the election the country of Mexico was going to pay for.

We think if we can find money for a wall, we can certainly find money to adequately protect the Great Lakes.