By Lisa Cirincione, J.D., Joining Vision and Action
Joining Vision and Action (JVA) is in the unique position of working with a variety of nonprofit changemakers and has heard from many people who are concerned about what Donald Trump’s presidency means for the causes that they care deeply about. This blog post is our attempt to share what President-elect Trump promised to do during his campaign. While there is no guarantee that once president he will keep these promises, we at JVA want to ensure that our clients are aware of his publicly stated positions so that they can advocate to affect change as they see fit.
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K–12 education: President-elect Trump has stated that he is very supportive of school choice and promises to redirect education dollars to allow parents to send their children to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. He says that he will ask Congress to invest an additional $20 billion toward school choice by reprioritizing existing federal dollars. This likely means cuts in funding to states for their public schools. He has also said that he would like to give states the option to allow these funds to follow the student to the public or private school they attend. Distribution of this grant will favor states that have private school choice, magnet schools and charter laws, encouraging them to participate. As a state that promotes school choice, not just with charters, but also district innovation and magnet schools, Colorado may be well-positioned for this funding.
President-elect Trump promises to ends common core and brings education supervision to local communities. Theses promises have not come with any specific plans about how he intends to do this.
Higher education: President-elect Trump has promised to ask Congress to authorize reforms to ensure universities are making a good faith effort to reduce the cost of college and student debt in exchange for the federal tax breaks and tax dollars. Again, there is not sufficient information about what this will look like to speculate about its impact on postsecondary institutions other than to say that those with lower cost may receive preferential tax breaks.
President-elect Trump has also indicated that he will continue President Obama’s legacy of helping people attend a two- or four-year college, or to pursue a trade or a skill set through vocational and technical education. We will have to wait and see how this promise is put into effect, but it may be that federal grant dollars for higher education that make it easier to access, pay for and finish college will continue to be available. This is very good news for Colorado’s postsecondary institutions, as long as they are not ineligible from receiving funding because Denver and Aurora are sanctuary cities (see immigration below).
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Among all of President-elect Trump’s campaign promises, the ones related to dismantling environmental protections are very likely to occur. He has stated that he believes that “climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese” and has asked Myron Ebell, a climate change denier, to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency transition. President-elect Trump has vowed to dismantle the energy/environmental regulatory framework established during the Obama presidency and halt Obama’s executive actions, including his Climate Action Plan. President-elect Trump is likely to open federal lands for oil and gas exploration, coal mining and logging; stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to the UN climate change programs; green-light the Keystone XL pipeline; lift production limits on coal production; and withdraw from the Paris agreement. However, state-level policies that support green energy will continue, so those concerned about the environment should support those nonprofits that will advocate for strengthened state laws to protect their wildlife, lands from oil and gas exploration, and reduce air pollution.
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President-elect Trump promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and replace it with health savings accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and let states manage Medicaid funds. He is also seeking changes to the bureaucracy at the FDA to speed the approval of life-saving medications. In recent days, President-elect Trump has softened his position, now saying that instead of repealing Obamacare, he would reform it to retain aspects that he likes, such as not allowing insurers to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions. This softening may also be a result of his realization that repealing the ACA will be a difficult task since it would require a 60-vote super majority in the Senate, and it is unlikely that any Senate Democrats would support it.
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In addition to the much-heralded promise to “build a wall that Mexico will pay for,” President-elect Trump also proposed strengthening immigration screening and enforcement, and the suspension of “catch-and-release” policies. President-elect Trump has also proposed ending all federal funding to sanctuary cities, which is a city that has adopted a policy of protecting illegal immigrants by not prosecuting them solely for violating federal immigration laws in the country in which they are now living illegally. Denver and Aurora are both sanctuary cities and if this promise is carried out it could have devastating impact on Denver and Aurora nonprofits that receive Federal grants. Colorado’s largest police departments—Denver and Aurora—have recently issued statements that they will not start enforcing federal immigration laws, so there is clear indication that neither city intends to change its policies regarding immigration—the police departments want every resident to feel safe reporting a crime without fear of deportation. This promise is one to be vocal about so it does not come to pass. Because President-elect Trump will need support from Congress to carry out these promises and it is uncertain that he will get that support from Congressional Republicans who know have majority membership of both the House and Senate, let alone Democrats, so advocacy efforts can be very helpful.
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President-elect Trump has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan over the next 10 years to improve America’s roads, bridges, airports, water, electricity grid, telecommunications networks and other infrastructure. As part of this plan, he has proposed tax incentives to encourage private investment as well. Because he views himself as a builder and these proposals are likely to be supported by both sides of the aisle, this campaign promise is likely to come to fruition. These investments in infrastructure may prove helpful to local governments who have seen revenue to pay for rebuilding roads and bridges fall from the gasoline tax as drivers have changed behavior in light of the spikes in gas prices only a few years ago.
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President-elect Trump’s position on legalized marijuana is unclear. However, Jeff Sessions, his nominee for attorney general, is against legalized marijuana. In Colorado, where marijuana is a $1 billion industry, re-criminalizing the use of this plant will have devastating effects on the state’s jobs and tax revenue from its sale, which is estimated to be $135 million and funds school construction projects and youth and substance abuse programs.
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President-elect Trump has said that he is pro-life and that will work to allow states to decide if abortion will be legal. Currently, 11 states restrict access to abortion, so it is likely that those states would choose to make it illegal, forcing women to seek healthcare in other states. He also promises that all future appointments to the Supreme Court will be pro-life. Because the average tenure on the Supreme Court is 26 years, those appointed by President-elect Trump will have long-lasting repercussions for women’s right to choose. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL have long fought for reproductive rights and will continue their advocacy work throughout the Trump administration.