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March 17, 2017

Maine delegation voices concern over Trump budget cuts

(Foto: Courtesy / Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons)
(Foto: Courtesy / Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons)
President Donald Trump submitted his first budget proposal to Congress on Thursday, a $1.15 trillion spending plan that calls for cuts in virtually every federal program other than defense, homeland security and veterans affairs.

President Trump unveiled his first budget Thursday, with Bloomberg News reporting on proposed cuts in virtually every federal program other than defense, homeland security and veterans affairs.

Maine's congressional delegation came out harshly against some of the proposals in the $1.15 trillion budget.

Here are their comments from written statements sent to Mainebiz or reported by other news organizations:

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1: "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 wall with Mexico shows how out of touch President Trump is with the needs of real Americans. From our families who rely on the 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."

Pingree, who also serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, said President Trump's proposed 29% cut for the U.S. Department of Agriculture would "cripple this agency."

"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," she stated. "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."

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-District 2, in a statement reported by Maine Public: "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."

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine: "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."

But Collins also identified what she characterized as a "number of serious problems with this proposed budget." Among them:

  • Proposed cuts in life-saving biomedical research at the NIH, which she said "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.

  • The proposed elimination 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," she wrote.

  • The proposed elimination of Community Development Block Grant program

  • Reduced funding for Housing and Urban Development by more than 13%

  • Proposed reductions for "education programs, low-income heating assistance and weatherization, clean energy technology.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine: "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 hard-working, middle-class folks throughout the state who would bear the brunt of it all."

The Portland Press Herald today published a detailed analysis of how President Trump's budget proposals would impact Maine. Find the full report here.

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