WASHINGTON – President Trump says "it's time" for the federal government to spend big money on cleaning up the Great Lakes, but the big spending actually began nine years ago under then-President Barack Obama.
And until Trump reversed course in a speech Thursday night in the electorally important state of Michigan, he had proposed, in three consecutive federal budgets, to either eliminate funding for the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative or to cut it by 90 percent. In fact, he most recently suggested cutting the program by 90 percent in the fiscal 2020 budget he proposed less than three weeks ago.
You wouldn't know that, though, if you just listened to what the president had to say in his campaign rally in Grand Rapids Thursday night.
"I'm going to get, in honor of my friends, full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which you've been trying to get for over 30 years," Trump said as the crowd in Grand Rapids erupted in cheers. "It's time. It's time. We've been trying to get it over 30 years. I would say it's time."
Trump's seeming attempt to take credit for an Obama-era program he'd been trying to cut didn't impress Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat who has fought for years to boost funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Higgins said the program is responsible for the cleanup and restoration of the Buffalo River and other similar projects across the Great Lakes region – and that Trump has had nothing to do with it.