Jim Hook Public Opinion
Trump Budget: Good for Letterkenny, Bad for Most Else in Franklin County
March 16, 2017
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  • President Trump’s outline for his first budget has clear winners and losers.

    Defense spending would be boosted. That could impact Letterkenny Army Depot.

    Human service programs would be cut. That would pressure the county government to cut programs or to pay for them with local tax dollars.

    If enacted, Trump’s budget would have a dramatic impact on communities across the nation, including Franklin County.

    1. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Economic Development Corp., has been anxiously awaiting for federal transportation legislation to trigger a boom in the nation’s and county’s economy.

    But Trump’s budget trims the Transportation Department by 13 percent.

    “There needs to be an infrastructure bill attached to it,” Ross said. “We don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate the growth estimates, which I believe are realistic. Infrastructure, that is the genesis of economic growth. When you build infrastructure, the stuff you can’t see, that allows for building the stuff you can see.”

    “Infrastructure, that is the genesis of economic growth. When you build infrastructure, the stuff you can’t see, that allows for building the stuff you can see.”

    Mike Ross, president, Franklin County Area Development Corp.

    U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,  has said previously that he and Trump support a major infrastructure investment.

    On Thursday Shuster commented only on the provision in Trump’s proposal that would turn the nation’s air traffic control system over to an independent, non-governmental organization. Shuster, who represents Franklin County, has championed the privatizing of air traffic control.

    Franklin County’s major manufacturers – Volvo Road Construction, Manitowoc Crane and JLG Industries – are tied to the construction industry. While waiting for a turnaround they have cut staff and consolidated.

    The explosive turnaround may be just around the corner, according to Ross. The private sector expects that “the regulatory reform and the tax reform Trump is talking about are going to bring billions of dollars into the market.”

    Trump’s budget outline calls for increasing Defense spending, which would likely have a significant impact on Letterkenny Army Depot, said Ross, who chairs a group dedicated to strengthening the depot.

    With the potential for conflicts in other parts of the world, nations like Poland and South Korea will be looking for air defense systems, according to Ross.

    Letterkenny’s showcase workload is the anti-missile Patriot system.

    Related coverage:

    The 62 agencies and programs Trump wants to eliminate

    Trump’s first budget slashes education, health spending to make way for military buildup

    Human services

    To cover increased Defense spending, Trump has proposed cutting domestic programs — such as the Community Development Block Grant, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant.

    The cuts would affect at least 22,000 people in Franklin and Adams counties.

    The South Central Community Action Program relies heavily on federal funding. Its staff of 106 employees could be cut by two-thirds, according to CEO Megan Shreve.

    “The budget process has a long way to go, but these moments are still so stressful,” Shreve said. “Social service programs are already so extremely underfunded with long waits. I can’t imagine what would happen to hard working families, and seniors on a fixed income, if these cuts actually went through.”

    Many SCCAP programs would be not be funded  — such as its two homeless shelters, Support Circles initiatives, the food service careers program, The Gleaning Project, food pantries and SCCAP administration, according to Shreve. The weatherization program would be cut in half, so SCCAP would work only with customers of PUC-regulated utilities and no longer provide assistance to homes heated with oil.

    Heating assistance available to PA residents

    Other programs, such as subsidized child care, are not specifically mentioned and their potential fates unknown, according to Shreve.

    Franklin County is responsible for administering human service programs, largely paid for with state and federal dollars.

    “As for picking up the slack, it might be possible to reallocate some human services block grant funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Franklin County Commissioner David Keller said. “We would look to the Block Grant Committee for a recommendation on that.  Otherwise, there really isn’t room in the budget to backfill with local property tax dollars.”

    Trump’s proposal would also eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program which funnels more than $750,000 a year for projects in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods across the county. Sewer and water projects, sidewalks and streets have been given priority.


    Farmers see plenty of weeds in the budget proposal.

    “Pennsylvania farmers and farmers across the nation are currently facing a variety of economic challenges, including depressed prices for milk, corn, soybeans and other food they produce,” said Mark O’Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. “We don’t believe that now is a good time to cut deeper into programs and services, which have already been reduced during previous budgets.”

    Farmers are also concerned about proposed cuts to agriculture research, which farmers rely on to make decisions.

    “American farmers could be placed at a distinct disadvantage in the global marketplace without research and analysis provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” O’Neill said. “Farmers are opposed to suggested cuts in funding to operate local Farm Service Administration offices, whose employees provide farmers a connection to vital information and services managed by USDA.”

    Franklin County is among the top agriculture counties in Pennsylvania.


    The Trump budget would cut Environmental Protection Agency funding by nearly a third.

    Included in the cuts are geographic programs, such as the Chesapeake Bay Program. The EPA recently stepped in to referee the cleanup in Pennsylvania and other states in the bay watershed.

    Franklin County targeted for bay pollution

    “Eliminating the EPA Bay Program will slam the door on the bay’s nascent recovery, a recovery which is still very fragile,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker. “There is the very real chance that if this budget were implemented, the bay will revert to a national disgrace with deteriorating water quality, unhealthy fish and shell fish, and water borne diseases that pose a real threat to human health. Compare that to its current trajectory – a bay teaming with healthy fish oysters and crabs; a bay safe for children to swim in; a national model of a federal/state partnership heralded worldwide.”

    Farmers and Rep. Shuster have objected to EPA regulations for small waters.

    The machinations of the budget “can influence the EPA to be more balanced in its regulatory oversight,” Ross said.

    Casey and Shuster

    Sen. Robert Casey, D-Scranton, said that Trump’s budget is a “series of broken promises to the people of Pennsylvania.”

    “President Trump is pursuing the agenda of far right congressional Republicans,” Casey said. “This budget cuts infrastructure programs that have created jobs in western Pennsylvania by repairing aging locks and dams. President Trump campaigned on helping urban communities, but students in Philadelphia will be adversely impacted by the elimination of after-school programs. Southeastern Pennsylvania is at the forefront of the kind medical research that drives cures while creating jobs, yet this budget decimates the National Institutes of Health, which funds that research.”

    Airports in Johnstown and Northwestern Pennsylvania could be shuttered because the budget would eliminate the Essential Air Services Program, Casey said.

    Shuster spokesman Casey Contres said on Thursday, “The budget was released today so Congressman Shuster is reviewing it in its entirety, but Congressman Shuster is pleased that President Trump included his plans to make transformational changes to the Federal Aviation Administration in this blueprint.”

    Shuster and airline executives have long pushed for privatizing air traffic control to make the system more efficient.

    “These reforms will allow the American people to see a more efficient system and will allow the FAA to focus on safety and robust oversight of the new not-for-profit service provider,” Shuster said. “It’s a great example of the bold reforms that can happen under President Trump with a Republican Congress.”

    The Alliance for Aviation Across America issued a statement saying the “unfortunate” budget proposal would allow big airlines to run the air traffic control system at the expense of farms and businesses: “This proposal would allow certain private interests to make critical system decisions ranging from infrastructure funding, to taxes and fees, according to their own best interest rather than that of the public. Already we see that privatized systems in other countries are run to the detriment of smaller operators and communities.”


    The nation’s budget is due by Oct. 1. Trump is to unveil details of his budget in May.

    There will be plenty of lobbying and dealing before a final budget is enacted.

    “Although the proposal is the starting point for budget discussions, ultimately Congress writes the budget,” O’Neill said. “The Farm Bureau plans to work with members of Congress to ensure that key agricultural programs are supported at adequate levels.”

    “At the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we will fight with every fiber in our bodies to see that Congress rejects this bay budget and maintains a program that has achieved so much and is poised to save one of the world’s greatest natural resources,” Baker said. “Clean water is not a luxury, it is a right that no American should have to fight to achieve.”

    Jim Hook, 717-262-4759