Guam and other U.S. territories stand to get an 18 percent funding cut under President Trump’s proposed budget for 2019.
Trump has proposed $608 million for Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
The Department of Interior originally proposed a $719.0 million budget for the Office of Insular Affairs, inclusive of a Department of Defense transfer for the Palau Compact.
The administration’s budget requests reduces technical assistance to the territories by $2 million, Brown Tree Snake control by $639 thousand, and Coral Reef Initiative and Natural Resources funding by $296 thousand.
The budget request eliminates $3 million in discretionary Compact impact funding, which is in addition to the mandatory $30 million shared by the affected jurisdictions each year.
“I am disappointed the President’s budget makes significant cuts to the Office of Insular Affairs for programs that directly benefit Guam and the other territories,” Guam’s delegate to Congress Madeleine Bordallo said. “Our communities are already struggling with constrained budgets, and the tax law enacted last year by Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration will worsen our local challenges.”
Federal officials, however, view the budget plan from a different perspective.
“The 2019 budget request prioritizes the Department’s mission of restoring trust and fulfilling insular responsibilities,” said Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech. “We are balancing OIA efforts to strengthen economic and health capacities in the U.S. territories and fulfilling U.S. obligations under the Compacts of Free Association to the freely associated states.”
In the 2019 President’s budget, DOI said, the funding commitments were an estimated $302 million for fiscal payments to Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands and $221.9 million for payments under the Compacts of Free Association.
But Bordallo said she is particularly concerned that the Administration’s low priority on addressing Compact impact by eliminating $3 million in discretionary funding.
“While this is a small amount compared to the overall costs to GovGuam and other affected jurisdictions, it is unacceptable for the Administration to propose less funding given the perennial shortfall of federal resources for Compact impact,” Bordallo said. “It also underscores the importance of passing common-sense legislation, like my Compact Impact Relief Act, which could provide immediate help to GovGuam.
The OIA budget request includes $84.1 million in discretionary appropriations and $523.9 million in mandatory funding.
Additionally, the budget requests $111 million of discretionary Department of Defense appropriations to be transferred to the Department of the Interior to support enactment of the 2010 Compact Review Agreement with Palau.
DOI said the funds are provided to assist Palau in its “efforts to advance the well-being of its people and in recognition of the special relationship that exists between the United States and Palau, its importance as an ally and a key part of the nation’s Asia-Pacific national security strategy.”