LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s budget plan includes cutting funds for a government agency that promotes economic development in eastern Arkansas and other parts of the Mississippi Delta.
The Delta Regional Authority is one of nearly 20 independent agencies marked for closure under a 2018 budget plan released by Trump’s administration Thursday.
The move faces opposition from some members of the Arkansas congressional delegation.
Chris Masingill, the authority’s federal co-chairman, said the economic agency would go out of business if the budget passes.
In a statement, Masingill said that “our nation’s top goals include building our infrastructure and ensuring greater security for Americans. These are important and admirable priorities, but it is important to keep in mind that agencies such as DRA are proven vehicles for delivering a modern infrastructure, and security also means providing economic security to our people. DRA has an outstanding track record of making strategic investments in the physical and human infrastructure that supports the economic security of some of the poorest, most underserved communities in our nation.”
The authority serves more than 250 counties and parishes in portions of Alabama and seven states that border the Mississippi River, many of them with high rates of poverty. Since its inception in 2000, it has distributed $163 million in aid to the region and helped retain or create more than 26,000 jobs.
Masingill’s statement continued:
“Since being created by Congress in 2000, DRA has been the leading advocate for supporting job creation, building communities, and improving lives across the eight states and 252 counties and parishes we serve in the Mississippi River Delta region and the Black Belt of Alabama.
“DRA is on the ground every day working to improve rural communities. We’re doing our part, and we’re not alone. Our eight Governors, congressional delegation, local mayors and community leaders work well with DRA regardless of political affiliation. We conduct business with the highest standards of public accountability and operational excellence.
“Our agency is not government as usual. We are a lean and effective organization that builds partnerships to invest in infrastructure improvements, workforce development, strengthening competitive communities and supporting small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. Throughout its history, DRA has added value to the budget approved each year by Congress.
“DRA has invested $163 million into more than 1,000 projects that have partnered with other public and private investments for a total of $3.3 billion. Those investments have helped to create and retain more than 26,000 jobs, train more than 7,200 workers for 21st Century jobs, and deliver water and sewer improvements to more than 64,000 residents.
“You cannot advocate for infrastructure development and economic security in rural America without also supporting the mechanisms, such as DRA, that make those projects a reality. DRA has a dedicated team that will remain focused on the projects and programs that are building the Delta while we work through this long budget process.
“As Chairman of DRA, I will continue to fight for the residents and businesses of our region. The people and communities in the Delta will always be worth fighting for.”
The Commercial staff contributed to this report.