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Political roundup: MI GOP reps navigate Great Lakes stewardship under Trump

Mar 24, 2017

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget shifts spending from domestic areas to security areas. One of the programs that would be cut under the proposal is the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

That money has been used to do the following: clean up polluted areas called Great Lakes Areas of Concern, prevent and control invasive species, reduce nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful blooms of algae (which led to Toledo's water system shut down), and restore habitat to protect native species.

Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican legislative leader, along with Vicki Barnett, the former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside to talk about the political fallout of this proposal.

With the loss of $300 million in funding, the Great Lakes and the surrounding areas could be put at risk. So why is this on the federal chopping block?

"It seems like [Trump's] agenda is to go back to simply basics," Barnett said. "Gut everything that's an extra program not mentioned in the constitution and to proceed from there. So, he wants to shift more money to the military and gut all these other programs that are so important for protecting the health, safety and welfare of our residents."

Barnett said the Great Lakes watershed and the lakes themselves are home to 20% of the world's fresh water supply and "we have a special obligation and duty to make sure we protect this great worldwide resource."

Protecting the Great Lakes has always been a bi-partisan effort for the congressional delegations in the eight Great Lakes states. With that in mind, Sikkema isn't confident that wiping out funding for the GLRI will happen.

"I think [the cutting of GLRI funding] will be rejected," Sikkema said. "The problem with the Trump administration is they want to increase military spending by about $54 billion but they want to leave Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and those entitlement programs off the table, so you don't really have much elsewhere to go and get that money."

Listen to the full interview above for more.

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