McKay testifies on Capitol Hill about impact of Trump budget

Jeff McKay

Jeff McKay testifies Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill.

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay testified Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill about unfunded state and federal government mandates, and called the potential impact of President Trump’s proposed budget “alarming.”

Speaking before the House Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs,  McKay outlined Fairfax County’s budget struggles and the adverse effect that unfunded mandates have on the budget. McKay testified that Fairfax County spent $1.4 billion on federal and state mandates in fiscal 2016, with $834 million of that total unfunded. 

Making the issue worse, McKay said, was Virginia’s restrictions over how counties can raise revenue. 

“Unfortunately we’re also the level of government with the fewest revenue options, making it even more difficult to address an increasing list of federal and state mandates,” McKay told the committee.

McKay said that even when the county agrees with the goals of the mandates, the lack of funding and control over how to execute the mandates is a cause of frustration. 

While the purpose of the hearing was to examine the burdens of unfunded mandates on state and local governments, testimony and questions from representatives on the subcommittee zeroed in on cuts outlined in Trump’s proposed budget.

McKay said that cuts to both federally funded programs and the federal workforce would make passing a county budget even more difficult in the future. He cited a recent study by George Mason University that projected a decrease of between 20,000 to 24,600 federal jobs and $800 million to $1.2 billion in procurement spending in the Washington D.C. area should the budget pass.

The loss of those jobs, on top of the cuts in federal funding for programs the county depends on, would be dramatic, McKay said.

“Our local economy, which has been so slow to recover [from the 2008 recession], could not absorb such losses and the effects would likely be catastrophic,” McKay said.

McKay noted that a number of high-profile transportation projects in the county, including the widening of Richmond Highway near Fort Belvoir, were dependent on federal transportation dollars, which are also slated to be cut in Trump’s budget. 

“Another critical partnership project that is currently underway is the widening of U.S. Route 1, which is literally the gateway to Fort Belvoir, an installation twice the size of the Pentagon,” McKay said in his prepared remarks, noting that $180 million for the widening project came from federal funds. “These improvements are necessary to improve traffic flow and access to a new Army Hospital located on the base.” 

McKay testified that the proposed elimination of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the Home Investment Partnerships (HOME) programs would hit the county hard.  Those cuts would cost the county approximately $6.4 million per year, and would significantly reduce affordable housing options in the county for low-income and middle-income residents, McKay said. 

Other programs federal programs facing the budget ax include funding for the Chesapeake Bay restoration, and the elimination of the Department of Education’s Impact Aid program. McKay said funding for Impact Aid, which seeks to offset the costs to communities for federally connected children in public schools, is “particularly frustrating.”

“[T]hat program is already significantly underfunded and certainly does not adequately provide for the more than 18,000 federally connected children we serve in Fairfax County Public Schools,” McKay said in his written testimony. 

You can read the advance copy of McKay’s written testimony here