Washington – President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal would strip Connecticut of tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, eliminating programs that subsidize heating bills for nearly 110,000 Connecticut households and provide housing for the homeless and after-school care. But the budget would boosting the state’s defense industry and fund a border wall.
“Our aim is to meet the crucial, but simple, demands of our citizens,” Trump said. “A government that puts the needs of its own people first.”
But the budget proposal’s cuts to domestic programs, which would strip Connecticut of tens of millions of dollars, provoked an outcry from Democrats Thursday – and some Republicans – putting in doubt whether congressional appropriators will hew closely to Trump’s blueprint. The White House will release additional details of the fiscal year 2018 budget in May.
“President Trump’s budget is an utter disaster for Connecticut” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The good news is that it’s so terrible that it’s likely dead on arrival.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said, “The president’s budget isn’t going to be the budget. We do the budget here.”
Gov. Dannel Malloy also panned the budget, saying his administration “will do all that we can to work with our federal delegation to ensure that this budget proposal does not come to pass.”
“If President Trump truly wanted to put ‘America first,’ he would start by putting our people and our common values first in his budget,” Malloy said. “Instead, the administration gets it terribly wrong in this proposal. This proposal guts programs that protect the environment and provide people access to critical services like housing, education, energy assistance, and child nutrition.”
Trump’s “America First” budget would add about $54 billion to defense programs, paying for that boost largely through a 10 percent cut in domestic programs.
Besides eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, it cuts funding to the National Institutes of Health by $6 billion.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, said the NIH cuts “will turn back the clock on life-saving biomedical research that has the power to change lives.”
Federal transportation grants the state and Connecticut towns have received to finance a number of projects, called Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, are also eliminated. Some projects that have received TIGER grant money included improvements around the Waterbury and Hartford train stations.
The budget also cuts Amtrak money for long-distance routes, but appears to leave funding for the Northeast corridor intact.
“A budget that devastates funding for medical research, transportation, and the heroin crisis would be awful for our state, and as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’m going to work with Republicans to make sure this right-wing budget never becomes law,” Murphy said.
More for defense, nothing for housing
Although Trump’s budget boosted money for defense, it did not specify how much more certain weapons programs would receive, only saying it would provide for additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and “rebuild the U.S. Navy to better address current and future threats by increasing the total number of ships.”
“More money for defense is a positive, but if you pay for it by gutting funding for job training and education then we will have no way to fill the defense jobs and the work will go overseas,” Murphy said. “It’s such a shortsighted approach and I am confident that it won’t survive scrutiny.”
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who has worked to boost defense spending on weapons systems built in the state, also said the budget is “dead on arrival.”
“The harm it does to all of the government, which is part of national security, is unacceptable,” he said.
Leaks about the budget included plans to cut the Coast Guard’s budget. But the blueprint released Thursday did not mention any.
However, the Environmental Protection Agency, which funds a number of programs in Connecticut, would suffer some of the most severe cuts, a reduction of more than 30 percent of its budget.
Trump’s proposal also would cut education funding for the state, reducing the budget for Pell grants that provide aid to the state’s college students and eliminating after-school and summer programs in the state that were funded by a $9 million-a-year federal grant.
The U.S. Department of Education’s budget would be cut by 14 percent, but school choice programs would be increased by $1.4 billion, including 168 million for charter schools, $250 for new private-school choice program, and $1 billion in Title I to encourage districts to allow federal dollars meant for low-income students to follow those students to the public school of their choice, a program critics say would strip money from schools that serve low-income students.
The state would lose tens of millions of dollars through the elimination of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block grants. The state was slated to receive about $12 million from the program that funds low-income housing, and cities and town in the state would lose about $23.5 million they expected to receive from the CDBG entitlement communities program. The president’s budget also proposes the elimination of the CT HOME program, a $6.5 million federal block grant program that provides funding to states and localities to be used exclusively for affordable housing.
Low-income residents who receive heating assistance would also be hard hit. The Trump budget eliminates the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which fully funds a state program that helps subsidize heating bills. Connecticut received more than $88 million for this program in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which helped nearly 110,000 households in the state.
Besides boosting defense spending, the president’s budget also would increase border security by $2.6 billion. Much of that money would be spent on a border wall Trump hopes to build between the United States and Mexico, the hiring of 500 additional Border Patrol agents and the construction of new detention centers to hold undocumented aliens.
Conservative groups praised the budget, but were aware it will suffer blowback in Congress.
“President Trump must not allow parochial concerns and Washington norms to stymie his effort to drain the swamp and put America first and make America great again,” said Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham.