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Trump Administration's Budget Proposal Has Big Impact On Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – The Trump Administration unveiled Thursday its initial budget proposal.

One surprising cut? Medical research. And that could have a heavy impact at one of Chicago's premier hospitals.

Spending increases are planned for Defense and Homeland Security, but hefty cuts are proposed too, including a 29 percent reduction for the State Department and spending for the Labor Department cut 21 percent.

Almost $6 billion is slashed from the National Institutes of Health, which caught the venerable Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago by surprise.

CBS 2's political reporter Derrick Blakley explains.

Just as the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab -- RIC's new research hospital -- cut the ribbon Thursday on its sparkling new $550 million Streeterville tower…

"It's the best place to come if you want to do research and you want to receive treatment," said Levi Hargrove, Research Scientist.

The gleaming new facility, rated the best rehab hospital in the nation, faces a new threat – severe cuts to research funding from President Trump.

"I don't want to see any funding cut from NIH because research is the future of health care," said Dr. Joanne Smith, CEO, Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. "It's the future of cures for patients."

But President Trump's proposal cuts National Institutes of Health by more than 18 percent.

"They're in for a fight and I think it's going to be a bipartisan fight," said Senator Dick Durbin. "Congress is going to resist this. It is shortsighted and it is cruel. It is cruel to cut medical research when we are so close to so many cures."

After suffering a major stroke, former Senator Mark Kirk received weeks of therapy under the hospital's former name, The Rehabilitation Institute.

More advanced therapy, he said, that he received at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

"I do not support the Trump cuts to NIH," Kirk said. "I think NIH is the crown jewel of the federal budget. I think we should continue the momentum of doubling NIH."

The White House defends the cuts in domestic programs, saying they are necessary to enforce immigration laws and build a stronger defense. In fact, one-tenth of the $54 billion defense increase comes from cuts to medical research.

And if that cut was not bad enough, no government unit took a bigger hit in the President Trump budget than the Environmental Protection Agency. Its budget was cut by almost one-third.

CBS 2's political reporter Derrick Blakley has more on how that could affect Chicago.

For years, cleanup of the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, has been a federal priority with bi-partisan support, but President Trump's budget wipes out spending for Great Lakes restoration.
The budget reduced from $300 million to zero.

"Trump's budget that he's put forward has clearly put profits of polluters ahead of the health of communities like Chicago," said Kady McFadden, Illinois Sierra Club.

The Great Lakes Restoration fund has been instrumental in the cleanup of heavily polluted Waukegan Harbor and defending the lake from invasion of Asian carp, but it has benefited other communities as well.

"We've seen this money go toward Northerly Island cleanup, as well as on the South Side," McFadden said. "So it has direct benefits to us right here in Chicago."

Earlier this week, as he welcomed Mayors from around the world at his urban waterways conference, Mayor Emanuel blasted reduction in Great Lakes funding.

"Making that cut would be devastating, given that 20 percent of the fresh water that exists in the U.S. is in the Great Lakes and it would have irreparable damage," Emanuel said.

And there is fear the overall EPA cut will cripple the agency in policing other pollution as well.

"These cuts will hobble EPA's ability to protect communities from types of pollution like lead pollution, dioxide pollution," McFadden said.

President Trump has stated goal is to reduce the EPA's budget by $2 billion and 3,000 employees; but his Great Lakes clean-up cuts may face stiff resistance.

A host of lawmakers in both parties from Minnesota to New York has already come out against eliminating funding to protect the Great Lakes. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman is reportedly incensed over the cuts.

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