Florida Keys News from the Keynoter and Reporter Newspapers

Keys in the eye of Trump budget cuts

If you thought the federal government’s budget is some in-the-clouds, has-nothing-to-do-with-me spending plan, think again. The past few weeks, we’ve seen tidbits trickle out about President Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 and if it passes in even somewhat of its current form, we would feel the effects. The Keynoter’s Kevin Wadlow reports that Trump’s budget proposes $1.3 billion in cuts for the U.S. Coast Guard, a massive amount for an agency whose current spending plan is around $10 billion. There are more registered boats in Monroe County than there are vehicles, and the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are our prime playgrounds on days off and the office for those who work in fishing, diving, sailing and anything else having to do with the water. Coast Guard Sector Key West Cmdr. Capt. Jeffrey Janzen notes that “when it comes to the mission of Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations, there is no doubt we are the busiest in the Coast Guard for that.” And he notes that during winter, boats up north are put away until spring but winter here means snowbird and tourist season, and those people are on the water, often needing rescues. Then there is a proposed cut of $4.2 billion for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Community Services Block Grant program. In the Keys, the home energy program meant that 559 Keys households received a combined $130,000 last year to help keep their lights on. Trump’s budget’s mantra is programs must “demonstrate strong performance outcomes.” We think people being able to cook and see at night is the outcome. Monroe County Social Services administers the energy program locally. Director Sheryl Graham says she doesn’t see the cut happening. “There’s just too much at stake and too many levels of government for it to go through.” Still, it’s on the table. Then there’s the Environmental Protection Agency, which helps monitor Keys water quality through the Water Quality Protection Program, created in 1995. It’s designed to identify potential changes in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that could harm Keys fish, coral, crustaceans and bird life. The current budget for the program is $1.4 million, down from $2.4 million seven years ago. Under Trump’s proposal, it would drop by even more, 31 percent. These are just the tips of the iceberg. As more details are delved into in the president’s proposed 2018 budget, we’ll surely see more concrete effects on the Florida Keys. Most people don’t believe Trump’s budget has any chance of passing Congress in its current form. But it would be unwise not to pay attention because before you know, things we’ve been accustomed to down here could very well go away.

This week's circulars

Videos

Covering the Army's parachute team

David Goodhue, with the Reporter and Keynoter, tandem jumps with the United States Army's Golden Knights parachute team on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Golden Nights
Covering the Army's parachute team 1:30

Covering the Army's parachute team

Toddler catches first fish in Florida Keys 1:09

Toddler catches first fish in Florida Keys

A ride in a vintage airplane in Marathon 2:04

A ride in a vintage airplane in Marathon

Key West Welcomes Tibetan Buddhist Monks 0:25

Key West Welcomes Tibetan Buddhist Monks