Trump budget would rip CT safety net for poor

GAGE SKIDMORE / CREATIVE COMMONS

President Donald J. Trump

Updated at 9:35 p.m.

Washington – President Donald Trump’s first budget, to be released in detail Tuesday, would cut Medicaid funding to Connecticut and eliminate other programs state residents rely upon to make ends meet, such as one that helps low-income people heat their homes.

“This is the first time an administration has written a budget though the eyes of  people paying the taxes,” said Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

But the budget, called “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” does not trim federal spending. It merely shifts spending from domestic programs to Trump’s defense and homeland security priorities.

If Congress implements any of the president’s plan, the budget could leave the cash-strapped Connecticut government with tough decisions to make about the safety net it provides its most vulnerable residents, as well as whether it can make up for federal cuts in environmental and education programs.

The Trump administration released a blueprint of its fiscal year 2018 budget in March that listed a number of programs to be eliminated, including the Low Income Heating Assistance Program and funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

But that blueprint did not include any of the president’s plans for the largest programs in the federal budget, called entitlements because anyone who qualifies for them receives benefits. Trump will leave Medicare and most of Social Security intact.

But he plans to ask Congress to trim other entitlement programs, including Medicaid, food stamps and the Social Security disability program. The disability program provided Connecticut recipients with more than $840 million in 2013.

Trump’s budget would cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid — which funds the Husky program — over the next 10 years. That proposal is also included in the House Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Right now, Connecticut and the federal government split the costs of the core Medicaid program 50-50, and anyone who is eligible to be covered under the government’s heath care program for the poor receives benefits. But under Trump’s plan, the cost-sharing arrangement would be scrapped and states would be given the choice of federal funding levels determined by either a per capita cap or a block grant.

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP),which  like Medicaid helps pay for the Connecticut’s Husky program, also would be cut by at least 20 percent for the next two fiscal years.

The Trump budget also would give states more flexibility to impose work requirements on poverty programs.

“We need folks to work,” Mulvaney said. “We need everyone pulling in the same direction.”

In addition, the Trump budget would require for the first time that states share in the cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, which serves about 420,000 people in Connecticut.

Mulvaney said the food stamps stamps and other programs aimed at helping the poor “spiked” during the last recession, but did not shrink afterward “as we expected them to.”

“There are folks who were put on SNAP who should not have been,” he said.

Gone completely is funding for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, which serves nearly 110,000 households in Connecticut. The state received about $88 million from the federal government to fund the heating assistance program this fiscal year.

The Malloy administration did not have an immediate reaction to the proposed reductions in “safety net” programs.

The Trump budget also will propose deep cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency budget, which provides Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection with about 25 percent of its funding.

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said the cuts in Trump’s budget would strip about $11 million from his agency.

“This money funds people and programs that are part of our core mission – [It] would make it very challenging to do our job,” he said.

About 20 federal Education Department programs would be eliminated under the Trump budget.

The proposed cuts in entitlement programs and domestic programs are needed to offset a $54 billion boost in defense spending, which could result in more Sikorsky-made helicopters and additional F-35 fighter jets, whose engines are made by Pratt & Whitney.

Border security agencies also would receive a boost, and the budget asks for $1.6 billion to begin construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico.

There is a big pushback from Democrats, and some Republicans, to the cuts Trump has proposed.

Schain of the DEEP also says his agency is working to eliminate proposed cuts in the Trump budget.

“We are working with environmental agencies across the country, stakeholder groups and our congressional delegation to head off federal budget cuts…and will continue those efforts,” he said.

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