President Donald Trump’s first budget — which includes $3.6 trillion in cuts over 10 years — would slash federal dollars to most discretionary programs but beef up money for Defense, veteran services and Homeland Security amid a promise of a balanced budget by 2027.
“Finally we have a president who presents a pathway to a balanced budget, an enthusiastic Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said. “This budget provides much-needed increases in spending for our military while also reforming our welfare system by incentivizing work for able-bodied adults.”
But advocates for Ohio’s poor said proposed cuts to social programs, including food stamps and Medicaid, would devastate “the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Of the 1.5 million Ohioans receiving food stamps, 84.4 percent are children, seniors and disabled, said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks.
Hamler-Fugitt called the cuts “shameful.”
“The Trump budget proposes dramatic cuts to one of the most effective poverty reduction programs in the country,” she said. “He’s taking food off the tables of everyday families.”
Several lawmakers Tuesday emphasized that the budget is a mere proposal and hardly cast in stone. “I don’t think the president’s budget is going anywhere,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, wasn’t that blunt but did say the plan will undergo much revision in Congress.
“The president and his people have given their recommendation,” he said. “Now it’s our job to go through the appropriations process…to come up with our own proposal. Congress has to appropriate every dime.”
Some Ohioans — including Portman — breathed a sigh of relief that the proposed budget plan calls for saving the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, a federal program that coordinates federal spending on drugs.
Trump’s draft budget — released weeks ago — had all but slated that office and its two major programs for elimination, drawing widespread condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike who argued the office and its so-called drug czar are on the front lines in the national fight against opioid addiction.
The budget released Tuesday cut the office’s overall administrative costs from $20 million to $18.4 million, but kept its programs intact. Richard Baum, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, said he believed that staff could “find ways to continue all of our operations” with the request.
Portman said he appreciated that the White House “has changed course” on on the drug czar, but he wasn’t so happy with the proposed elimination of federal money to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is aimed at cleaning up the Great Lakes.
In documents explaining the budget, the administration argues that the $300 million saved by eliminating the program will enable the Environmental Protection Agency to refocus on “core national work.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the money is needed to preserve a valuable natural resource.
“Taking a blow torch to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative could cost Ohio jobs that rely on the lake, and jeopardize public health by putting our drinking water at risk,” said Brown. “Those of us along the Great Lakes will not stand for a budget that eliminates the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”
Any budget proposal in a divided political arena has its critics, but Trump’s first budget seemed to land with a fairly loud thud. While conservative like Jordan applauded its promise to end deficit spending within 10 years, others poked holes in proposals that called for gutting even programs with large and motivated constituencies.
“What is going on in the White House with this kind of budget?” asked Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “How many people in America want to cut cancer research? President Trump evidently does.”
Proposed cuts to Medicaid and education seemed to draw the loudest rebukes. The Medicaid cuts alone would amount to $600 billion, according to some estimates, and that doesn’t include the billions that would be trimmed from the program if the House-passed Republican health care bill becomes law.
“We’re no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs, but by the number of people we help get off those programs,” said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.
“Compassion needs to be on both sides of that equation. Yes, you have to have compassion for folks who are receiving the federal funds, but also you have to have compassion for the folks who are paying it.”
Thomas Gentzel, executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association, said the $9 billion in proposed education cuts would “deliver a devastating blow” to the nation’s education system if enacted.
Mike Uhl, president of Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, said the Medicaid cuts would force hospitals like his to cut jobs and absorb the cost of more uncompensated care.
“Health care coverage is vital to working Americans (and) it’s vital that we not overlook the impact this will have on jobs,” Uhl said.
Ohio has much to lose from Trump’s budget proposals, according to Wendy Patton, senior project manager of Policy Matters Ohio, a left–leaning research group. Patton said the health care sector is a critical part of Ohio’s economy and the growth of private health care jobs in recent years has helped blunt the loss of manufacturing jobs in rural and urban counties alike.
There were some wins in the budget for Ohio. In addition to the additional money being ponied up for Defense, the budget request included money for cleanup work at the former uranium enrichment plant in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Portman said the $351 million budget request, if enacted, “would ensure there are no layoffs and that cleanup of the site stays on track.”
Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, said Trump’s budget “bends the out of control spending curve in the right direction by making good on his promises to reform mandatory spending, cut wasteful programs, and balance the budget.”
“This is a serious proposal to begin addressing our nation’s fiscal crisis,” he said.
Information from the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press was used in this story.
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