LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - In Washington D.C. the big talk is on the President Trump’s budget proposal released this week.
The $4.8 trillion budget includes a plan to eliminate the federal deficit in 15 years through budget cuts and projected growth. Those cuts including social programs and foreign aid. The plan does increase military spending as well as funding for NASA.
Politicians have been weighing in all week, including Senator John Kennedy. He highlighted several things in President Trump's budget plan he says will help Louisiana, such as $50 million towards dredging the Mississippi River.
“Maritime commerce is an important part of our economy and the river is our lifeline, but we call it the dirty Mississippi,” Kennedy said. “The water is dirty for a reason, it’s got silt in it. That silt settles to the bottom and the river becomes more shallow. We constantly have to constantly dredge it, otherwise the ships can’t get through, and that gets expensive.”
The President's budget plan proposes making cuts to Medicaid, something Senator Kennedy agrees with.
“We’ve got a real problem with the way we are implementing Medicaid in Louisiana,” Kennedy said. “Our Louisiana Department of Health has wasted a lot of our Medicaid money. They don’t enforce the rules and terms of who is eligible. If you are an able-bodied adult, are not disabled and don’t have any children, we are happy to help you. But in return, we’ll also help you find a job. You have to work 20 hours a week. The idea being that the best social program is a job and we want to get you back on your feet so you don’t need Medicaid or food stamps."
Senator Kennedy also spoke on unclaimed bonds at the federal level.
“The U.S. Department of Treasury is holding $25 billion in U.S. savings bonds that have matured, they aren’t earning interest anymore, but are unclaimed,” Kennedy said. “People have money and accrued interest in these bonds and the Treasury has their names and addresses but people haven't claimed them. They might have forgotten about them. I went to Secretary Mnuchin about a year ago to make this program a priority to get the money back to the people. We have to have some money to organize the records, to digitize the records, and the President included some of that money in his proposed budget.”
Kennedy said he also agreed with President Trump to look at student loan programs and universities.
“I think we have over 100 different student loan programs,” Kennedy said. “We have too many cooks in the kitchen. He wants to consolidate all of those programs and write a student loan program like somebody designed it on purpose. We also have to look at our universities. They are not doing a good job in terms of controlling costs and tuition. Since 1985 tuition has gone up 500% in America. That’s more than the cost of healthcare. That’s more than the cost of housing. Many of our universities are top heavy, they are not spending the money in the classroom. They are spending money hiring more administrators. Universities have to tighten their belt as well. We have kids in Louisiana graduating with degrees in debt. The door swings both ways. We can do better with our student loan programs, but universities have to do a better job too. Their priorities need to be spending their first dollar in the classroom. Everything else is secondary. I understand you have to have administrators to run a university. But if you look at all the universities in America, we have on average twice as many administrators, bureaucrats, non-teaching personnel as teachers. I believe our universities can do a better job.”
And while he has spotlighted some elements of the budget, Senator Kennedy reminds everyone it's just a proposal, and changes are likely before anything passes Congress.
“Well first I want to caution everybody that the President’s budget is not the law. It’s advisory. the last time Congress adopted in toto [totality] the President’s budget was never, so this will likely change.”