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“I was able to convince him, ‘Mr. President, this is not an efficient use of the taxpayer dollars,’” Mick Mulvaney said of the Appalachian Regional Commission.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney says he personally made a case to President Trump that funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission should be chopped.
“My guess is he probably didn't know what the Appalachian Regional Commission did. I was able to convince him, ‘Mr. President, this is not an efficient use of the taxpayer dollars. This is not the best way to help the people in West Virginia,’” Mulvaney said during an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood that was posted online on Wednesday.
Trump’s reply, according to Mulvaney: “‘Okay, that's great. Is there a way to get those folks the money in a more efficient way?’ And the answer is yes. And that's what’s we're going focus on.”
How that “more efficient way” looks is still unclear.
The “skinny budget” proposal for fiscal year 2018 that the White House issued last month calls for eliminating the Appalachian Regional Commission. An independent agency, the commission is focused on economic development in 13 Appalachian states. It was formed in the 1960s.
Grant dollars that flow through the agency have supported a wide range of activities and costs, including education and training programs in areas with struggling economies.
On Tuesday, Kentucky’s Department for Local Government announced grants that had been awarded within the state by the ARC.
One was a $250,902 grant to Marcum and Wallace Memorial Hospital in Irvine to help pay for a mammography imaging system—equipment used for tests to detect breast cancer. Another grant, for $300,000, will go toward replacing a water tank in Clay City that is more than four decades old. The city in the past year issued nine separate boil-water advisories due to the deterioration of the tank.
The Appalachian Regional Commission was provided $146 million of funding for fiscal year 2016.
That amount is about 0.2 percent of the $54 billion increase in defense spending Trump has proposed in his fiscal year 2018 spending plan.
As the budget process moves forward, Congress will get to decide which of Trump’s proposed cuts and spending increases they will accept or reject.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, indicated last month that he was opposed to killing the ARC.
"We are not going to allow any cuts to the Appalachian Regional Commission," McConnell said, according to WYMT-TV, a television station based in Hazard, Kentucky. "It is very important to Eastern Kentucky. It has been for a number of years. That's not going to happen."
Harwood asked Mulvaney during the interview if Trump was aware that the cuts he has proposed could hurt some voters who backed the president in last year’s election.
“The president is certainly conscious of the people who voted for him, right,” Mulvaney replied.
“But he cares about more than just the Trump voters,” the budget director added. “So when you say you know, people that voted for him are hurt, that's not the issue. He wants to know, ‘Are the folks in Appalachia, are the coal miners in West Virginia going to be better off under my presidency whether or not they voted for me?’”
Previously on Route Fifty:
Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.