Now What? Local Government in the Age of Trump II
Reading the tea leaves for predictions about local government funding.
In the last post, we predicted that there will be some serious changes in the relationship between local government and the Federal Government. This is because of the election of Donald Trump as President. As we stated, this is because the President qualifies as an extreme-impact, highly improbable phenomenon, a “black swan”. This is not just because of a change in party from a Democratic to a Republican presidency. Trump has already shown himself to be highly unpredictable and that he doesn’t follow any conventional playbook, even a Republican script. “You can’t do that” is not a meaningful statement. In fact, with the sudden ruling on immigration (for a recent example), he has shown that he will do things because he can. So assumptions that anything will go on as it has are very poorly based.
There are a few hints as to what may happen. One is that he is apparently intent on fulfilling many of his campaign promises, even those thought to be too outlandish to be real during the campaign. Often these were no more than tweets, but I hope that planners everywhere have already assembled a book of those for study.
Another hint is his appointments to Cabinet and other high-placed positions. It appears that his main thrust is to appoint people who have a contrary view on the policies that are the responsibility of their new position. So for example, Betsy DeVos – hates public schools, appointed to Department of Education. The Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, whose important relationship with that agency has been to sue it. As these individuals take their places, it will be necessary to examine their records and pronouncements in order to guess what may happen. But it is obvious that the intent is not to go on as we have.
Then there is the Republican Congress. They have a rather uneasy relationship with their new President, but they are exultant at the opportunity to apply their views on spending, taxation, and regulation that have been held in stasis for eight years. So where there are budgetary blueprints already on the table, they should be taken as a serious indication of where things may go.
According to an article in The Hill, Congressional staffers are putting together a “skinny budget” that is also being scrutinized by the President’s staff. This budget is based on the Blueprint for Reform assembled by the conservative Heritage Foundation. The Hill has assembled a number of proposed agency cuts (which might affect local governments directly) and listed them in the article. We hope to examine these closely in a future post.
Another set of guidelines to watch is a set of transportation priorities highlighted in an article from McClatchy DC. These are slightly different from a set of priorities compiled by the National Governors’ Association. All these are relevant to Trump’s promise to invest heavily in big infrastructure projects. But they also have a potential effect on other transportation initiatives.
Willingness to Act
All of this should also be taken in the context of Trump’s evident willingness to wield a funding sword (or perhaps chainsaw is the better tool) to punish local governments for straying from the policy path that he prescribes. The recent executive order regarding sanctuary cities, as detailed in this article from MLive, indicates that he will not hesitate to use this tool without a concern for collateral damage. This caused at least one councilmember, Chuck Warpehoski, to express reservations at taking a step (the casual use of the term sanctuary city) that would endanger programs in the City, including affordable housing.
Given all these still indefinite indicators, our local representatives should be looking ahead to see which programs may be vulnerable. Our administrative staff and those whom we have elected to represent us need to be on their toes. This certainly doesn’t seem to be the time to engage in bold adventures.
UPDATE: Some explicit worries about changes to support for affordable housing from Shelterforce.
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