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Governors of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware join Maryland in asking for more federal Chesapeake Bay funding

The governors of Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia and the mayor of Washington, D.C., joined Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in asking Congressional leaders to increase the federal budget for the Chesapeake Bay’s cleanup Tuesday.

In a letter released Wednesday, they called on House and Senate committee leaders to spend $90 million on the federal Chesapeake Bay Program, 23 percent more than the initiative’s current budget.

Hogan sent a similar letter to top Capitol Hill officials last month, after President Donald Trump’s administration proposed cutting the bay program’s budget by 90 percent.

The bay program, an office of the Environmental Protection Agency based in Annapolis, is seen as a backstop to ensure state and local governments across the Chesapeake watershed do their part to reduce water pollution.

“After three decades of collaboration with our federal and jurisdiction partners we are witnessing measured improvements towards clean water,” the officials wrote.

Despite the progress, they said, “we are still short of our collective goals.” They called increased federal funding “critical to sustaining the healthy signs of recovery.”

Del. Tawanna Gaines, a Prince George’s County Democrat, also signed the letter in her capacity as chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, an organization that advises legislators in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania on bay issues.

Congress has repeatedly rejected Trump’s proposed cuts to the bay program. In his first budget, he proposed eliminating the program; this year and last year, he proposed reducing its budget to $7.3 million. The federal government is routinely funded through legislation known as continuing resolutions, with the president’s budget proposals sometimes serving as a guide depending on which political party controls the legislative and executive branches.

Maryland’s delegation in Washington has since at least 2017 pushed legislation that would authorize an increase in the bay program’s budget to $90 million.

Sue Walitsky, a spokeswoman for Sen. Ben Cardin, said lawmakers would continue to press for authority to make that funding increase, and that in the next round of federal budget negotiations, $90 million would be Democrats’ “starting point.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen sits on the Senate’s appropriations committee, and plans to push for the increased bay budget when those negotiations occur, a spokeswoman said.

At a subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Van Hollen pressed EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Trump’s proposed cuts, stressing that the administration reversed budget reductions for Great Lakes environmental cleanup and the Special Olympics after public outcry.

In response to a question from Van Hollen, Wheeler said he supports the Chesapeake program.

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