(Photo by Cezary Piwowarski: Courtesy Wiki Commons)
(Photo by Cezary Piwowarski: Courtesy Wiki Commons)
Every year, the president is supposed to offer a budget proposal to Congress by or before the first Monday in February, but typically during presidential transition years a budget outline, or “skinny budget,” is presented. That is what President Trump sent to Congress last week. A full budget request for fiscal year 2018 will likely be presented to Congress in May, but the federal budget will ultimately be drafted and approved by the U.S. Congress.

The budget outline presented by President Trump last week proposes billions of dollars in cuts to virtually every agency, except for Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. 

Many of the cuts are huge, with the EPA leading the list, with a proposed cut of over 30 percent, and the State Department and Agriculture Department not far behind. 

But the Labor Department, National Institutes of Health, Commerce Department, Health and Human Services, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, Housing & Urban Development, and Transportation and Interior departments all are also targeted for deep cuts in Trump’s budget outline.

And the list of programs that the budget would eliminate funds for altogether is a long one. A small sample of that list includes the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Economic Development Administration, Emergency Refugee Migration Assistance Fund, Community Development Block Grant Program (which in some areas helps to fund Meals on Wheels), Weatherization Assistance Program, National Wildlife Refuge Fund, Global Climate Change Initiative, Legal Services Corporation, LIHEAP (the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that thousands of Mainers rely upon to help with the cost of home heating oil), and the Essential Air Service program (which subsidizes commerical air service at rural airports, including, in Maine, those in Owls Head, Bar Harbor, Presque Isle and Augusta).

Following are statements from Maine’s Congressional delegation in response to the president’s proposed budget plan: 

Senator Collins, March 17

“Every President's budget is subject to significant revision by Congress, and this budget will be no exception.

I am encouraged that the President’s budget aims to remove the threat of sequestration for our military at a time when our country is facing serious national security challenges around the globe. I have long opposed this indiscriminate, across-the-board approach to cutting spending, which fails to set priorities.

I was also pleased to see increased funding for lead hazard control programs, which are particularly important for states like Maine, where our housing stock is older and lead poisoning poses an especially dangerous and often unseen threat.

There are, however, a number of serious problems with this proposed budget.

I am particularly concerned about the proposed cuts in life-saving biomedical research at the NIH, which threaten to impede the important progress that has been made in our fight to develop treatments, means of prevention, and cures for diseases such as diabetes, ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, our nation’s most costly disease.

At a time when we should also be increasing our investments in our transportation network, this proposal eliminates TIGER grants, which have helped rebuild bridges, highways, freight rail, seaports, and other vital infrastructure projects across the country. In addition to improving safety and efficiency, the TIGER grant program has created and saved much-needed jobs.

The President’s budget would also eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program, which has helped a number of Maine communities improve their downtowns and expand economic opportunities for people with low and moderate incomes.

The proposed budget slashes funding for HUD by more than 13 percent. These cuts would be especially challenging to implement considering that 84 percent of HUD’s budget is spent on maintaining existing rental assistance for families, seniors, veterans, the disabled, and other vulnerable populations.

In addition, I am troubled by the proposed reductions for certain education programs, low-income heating assistance and weatherization, clean energy technology, and other programs. As the appropriations process moves forward, I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop a revised budget.”

Senator King, March 16

“I recognize and agree with the need to reduce federal spending as part of a balanced effort to tackle the debt and deficit, but I have a hard time seeing how eliminating heating assistance, cutting medical research, and ending economic development funding do little more than harm people, families, and businesses across Maine. And reducing State Department funding by nearly a third only jeopardizes our security and makes us less safe from global threats — not more. To me, this doesn’t seem like a serious attempt to offer a reasonable, cost-cutting budget — and, sadly, it’s hardworking, middle-class folks throughout the state who would bear the brunt of it all.”

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, March 16: 

“As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I will not stand for President Trump’s foolish and shortsighted budget proposal which will make America less healthy, safe, and economically secure. Cutting Meals on Wheels, heating assistance for low-income families, and essential economic stimulus programs that rural states like Maine rely on, in order to build a 1.5 billion dollar wall with Mexico, shows how out of touch President Trump is with the needs of real Americans. From our families who rely on LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) to our cities and towns that rely on the Economic Development Administration and Community Development Block Grants to bring job creation to Maine, this budget would leave Mainers and Maine communities behind. For those of us who know the impact these domestic cuts will have on the communities we serve, President Trump’s budget proposal is dead on arrival. 

Moreover, as a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, I am appalled by President Trump’s proposed budget for USDA, which would cripple this agency with a 29-percent cut from the agency’s enacted fiscal year 2016 budget. Slashing all discretionary funds from Rural Business and Cooperative Services will only stifle economic development in rural America and harm the very communities that the President claims to support. Farmers in Maine and across the country benefit greatly from Value Added Producer Grants, the Rural Energy for America Program, and military veteran farmer trainings organized by ATTRA. Field office staff are USDA’s boots on the ground providing farmers with essential technical assistance and outreach, yet President Trump wants to cut these positions which have an enormous impact in rural communities.”

Congressman Bruce Poliquin, March 16:

“One of my top priorities in Congress has been doing everything I can to help our veterans and to make certain they are given the care they were promised, have earned and deserve, especially in my new role serving on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. I’m extremely encouraged the President has signaled he shares this interest in his proposal, which promises vital increases to veterans’ services in Maine and across the nation. In addition, I’m pleased the President is committed to strengthening our national security and securing essential funding to our American workers, like our shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works.

However, I want to make sure we maintain support for programs and agencies that serve our families and communities, help protect our environment and provide quality programing for children. I’m specifically concerned about making too significant reductions for programs like LIHEAP, Community Development Block Grants and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I would also need to closely look at any changes to environmental services that directly impact Maine.

Congress has the Constitutional responsibility to approve a budget for the federal government. I’m going to thoroughly examine the President’s proposal in the coming months as Congress works to approve a final budget.”