Larsen meets with students, Tulalip Board

Apr 28, 2017 Issues: Budget, Environment, Social Services, Tribes

Larsen meets with students, Tulalip Board

  • North County Outlook
  • 4/26/2017
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, of Washington's 2nd District, stopped by Tulalip on April 21 to talk with the new Tulalip Tribal Board about the impacts of budget cuts, and then visited Mountain View High School to talk with students. 
 
Larsen talked with the new Tulalip Tribal Board about the impacts of potential budget cuts coming from the new presidential administration.
 
Tribal Board members hoped to help fight for some budget items they think are important.
 
"What can we do together to put the most important and critical things on the table?" asked Board member Bonnie Juneau.
 
President Trump has released a 54-page budget, sometimes called the "skinny budget," which provides some preliminary details of what the administration is aiming for, said Larsen.
 
"There are some clear indications of what they wanted to do," he said, including cutting 31 percent of the EPA's budget and about a 15 percent cut to Housing and Urban Development.
 
Larsen said that 52 major projects in his district, including things like beach restorations, have been funded through the EPA.
 
"These cuts to the EPA will be devastating for our efforts in salmon restoration," he said.
 
Tribal members worried about funding through the EPA that helps their environmental efforts as well.
 
"We have staff that is covered by EPA," said Juneau.
 
"With the current flavor in D.C., it could affect a lot of grants that the Tribe has," said Board member Mel Sheldon.
 
Larsen said Trump's proposed budget also cuts the Community Development Block Grant completely and has a 2 percent cut to Section 8 housing assistance.
 
"Snohomish County government would just shut down its affordable housing program, because they just wouldn't have the money," he said.
 
Organizations for kids, like the YMCA, also use those grants to provide more services to youth, Larsen said.
 
"We already have a homeless problem that is immense, so the cutting into the housing, even at 2 percent for Section 8 and the Community Development Block Grant, what kind of impacts are we looking at?" asked Juneau.
 
Board member Theresa Sheldon also worried about grants that fund victims' programs. Programs that support survivors of domestic violence or other violence against women are threatened with the cuts, she said.
 
Larsen expects the president's full budget will be released in May and reiterated that Congress will still have their say.
 
"There has been quite a bit of pushback against the president's proposed budget," he said.
 
The new Tulalip Tribal Board was installed on April 1 with Marie Zackuse as the new Tribal Chairwoman.
 
It is the first time the Tulalip Tribes have had an elected chairwoman (they've had an appointed chairwoman in the past) and is also the first majority women board for the Tulalip Tribes.
 
"We're so excited that we're going to declare this the 'Year of the Woman' and go through a series of monthly gatherings of our people to honor the women of Tulalip," said Tulalip Tribal Board member Les Parks.
 
"It's really a new day and a new sense of direction," he said.
 
Mountain View High School
 
Larsen also fielded questions from high school students at the Marysville School District's Mountain View High School.
 
Students wondered about some of the things that could affect them in their immediate future.
 
"We're trying to make decisions on funding for higher education and how to pay for college," Larsen said. "For a lot of folks college can be out of reach."
 
Exactly how much finding for assistance grants, like Pell Grants, is still up in the air until the full proposed budget is revealed, he said.
 
Young people may also be worried about the future of the country's environment he said.
 
"[The president] is also seeking to cut regulations that are resulting in cleaner air and cleaner water, so if you're concerned about the future of our environment you might be concerned about those actions," said Larsen.
 
Some students wondered about the polarized Congress and if there were issues that drove that divide.
 
"Some say that partisanship drives partisanship, but I think historically, if you look at the history of Congress, that's not always accurate," said Larsen.
 
Larsen pointed to issues like Russian interference in the last general election and healthcare as the primary divisive issues in today's Congress.
 
He said there are some changes to the Affordable Care Act that could see widespread approval once that divisiveness dies down.
 
"I think there are some changes we could make where there would be bipartisan support, but we aren't to that point yet," he said.
 
One student wondered if Larsen was looking forward to anything in the Trump administration.
 
"The president has talked about, not in detail, but wanting to do $1 trillion in infrastructure spending - roads, highways, bridges. That's really great because infrastructure spending puts people to work," he said.
 
A true infrastructure bill that provided maintenance and construction funds could receive bipartisan support, he said.