Trump Administration Budget Update

On Wednesday, March 15, the new Trump administration released its so-called “skinny budget.” Traditionally in a new administration, a preliminary federal budget for the next fiscal year is released in March/April prior to a full budget request that follows weeks or months later.

The preliminary Census Bureau budget “provides $1.5 billion (in FY 2018), an increase of more than $100 million, for the U.S. Census Bureau to continue preparations for the 2020 Decennial Census. This additional funding prioritizes fundamental investments in information technology and field infrastructure, which would allow the bureau to more effectively administer the 2020 Decennial Census,” said the Trump administration.

However, the FY 2018 Trump budget proposal calculates its funding increase against the final budget enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama for FY 2016, NOT the FY 2017 budget request still being considered by Congress because of the Continuing Resolution (see our February update). Actually, the Trump budget request for the 2020 Census is about $135 million LESS than what the Census Bureau requested for THIS fiscal year (FY 2017).

Next year the Census Bureau must conduct its End-to-End Test of 700,000 selected households in Rhode Island, Washington state and West Virginia. The 2018 field test is designed to test all components of the new I.T. and internet technologies. The Trump budget is inadequate for the field test next year.

In comparison, our colleague Terri Ann Lowenthal looked at what the Bush administration requested in a similar situation in FY 2008 to fund the field test in 2008. She says that “the Bush II budget request for the Census Bureau for FY 2008 represented an increase of roughly one-third (34%) from the FY 2006 level.”

So, while the Trump administration increased funding for FY 2018 to “effectively administer the 2020 Decennial Census” its preliminary budget figures are woefully short of what is needed for the vital End-to-End Test. Ten years ago the Bush administration provided adequate funding faced with a similar decennial challenge!

The Census Project will work with Congress to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census.