05.23.17

Comments Of Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy On Vermont’s Priorities And President Trump’s Budget

. . . Budget Slashes Vermont Priorities And Undercuts Rural Communities

[President Donald Trump on Tuesday released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2018.  Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Tuesday morning issued a statement on the budget as a whole.  Leahy also issued the following statement on the Trump budget’s devastating cuts to Vermont priorities.]

Rural America, including rural states like Vermont, is MIA in the President’s budget.  His budget eliminates key investments in rural communities, leaving them without federal partnership support for everything from infrastructure development and affordable housing, to programs that preserve the environment and provide food for the elderly.  It also is a compilation of broken promises to working men and women and to struggling families, fraying the lifelines that help vulnerable families lift themselves into the middle class.  To this Vermonter, that is not acceptable. 

Among these slashed lifelines are devastating cuts to our safety net health and nutrition programs for those who are struggling the most in our communities.  Some of the most drastic cuts in the budget are within the Medicaid program, which doubles down on the dangerous programmatic changes and cuts included in the Trumpcare bill.  Not only would enacting this budget make it harder for low income families to receive health coverage, but this proposal also cuts nearly $6 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which would force millions of near-poverty children off health insurance.

By eliminating LIHEAP, the President would literally be leaving thousands of Vermonters out in the cold.  The government should not be in the business of forcing families to make the difficult choice between staying warm and having food on the table.  Last year alone, Vermont received nearly $19 million to help more than 21,000 households in all 14 counties across our state.  This is a vital lifeline to our communities.

To abandon federal support for cleaning up Lake Champlain by eliminating the Sea Grant and Geographic programs would be foolish, and it would waste the investments we have already made.  With a large and dynamic ecosystem like Lake Champlain, there is no standing still.  We’re either advancing, or slipping behind.

This budget continues the anti-science know-nothingism of the President’s campaign, by cutting medical and technological research and gutting monitoring and research on the threats we face from climate change.  The University of Vermont would lose millions of dollars for valuable research, research that you simply cannot pause and hope to resume.  And we would lose millions more in vital investments in infrastructure. 

We cannot recklessly slash investments in rural communities like ours in Vermont.  And as Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and a senator from Vermont, I will fight for our real budget priorities. 

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*** At-A-Glance Highlights Of The Trump Budget’s Impact On Vermont ***

(NOTE: These are compared to FY17 enacted levels.)

Lake Champlain

  • This budget eliminates the NOAA Sea Grant Program and the EPA Geographic programs, which would strip millions of dollars away from funding to clean up Lake Champlain.

LIHEAP

  • The budget eliminates LIHEAP, which supports 21,000 households in Vermont, which received $19 million last year.

NIH

  • The budget calls for a 21 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health, which could result in cuts of at least $9 million to research activities at the University of Vermont.

Legal Services Corporation

  • Nearly 3,000 Vermonters – including veterans, elderly victims of foreclosure, victims of domestic violence and others – will not receive services if this program were eliminated.

Health/Education:

  • This budget includes $1.7 trillion in devastating cuts to safety net programs over 10 years, including Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps (SNAP), Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Social Security Disability Insurance.  These cuts would make it harder for struggling families to make ends meet, access health care, and food assistance. 
  • President Trump’s budget proposes $1 billion for an unproven public school voucher proposal at the expense of Title 1 grants to public school districts.  This will be particularly harmful for rural states like Vermont where school “choice” isn’t always an option.  It also eliminates funding for afterschool programs, claiming they do not help student performance.
  • The President’s budget cuts NIH funding by 21 percent, or $7.2 billion, stopping important medical research in its tracks.  Not only will this affect the public health, but also institutions like University of Vermont that use these resources to conduct important research.   

Transportation:

  • President Trump promised rural communities he would focus on their needs, yet his budget favors urban centers.  President Trump has promised to fix our country’s crumbling infrastructure, yet his budget devastates the Department of Transportation’s funding. 
  • The Trump budget decreases federal funding for the Department of Transportation by more than 12 percent, and eliminates successful transportation programs – like TIGER Grants – that allow communities to rebuild in effective and smart ways. Vermont has received more than $30 million through the TIGER grant program; the most recent $10 million award will improve and upgrade the Western corridor rail line.
  • President Trump’s budget eliminates the Essential Air Service (EAS), a program that allows rural communities like Rutland to sustain regular air transportation services. This annual federal allocation of $1.3 million to help secure 6,000 passenger enplanements to and from Rutland is a key economic development tool for more isolated communities. 
  • The Trump budget doubles down on the President’s proposal to rebuild our infrastructure through private public partnerships, a solution that is known to favor urban centers over rural ones, where toll funding, for instance, are impractical or unworkable.

Housing/Community Development:

  • The President made it clear in his FY18 Budget that affordable housing for low-income families and investing in communities is not a priority for this White House. 
  • This budget decimates programs that help Vermont families find and afford housing, and that assist communities in building and maintaining affordable housing.  It eliminates programs that help modify existing housing to improve accessibility for aging and disabled citizens.
  • The President’s budget eliminates HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and NeighborWorks which will cut federal investment in affordable housing and development in Vermont by more than $12 million. 

Environment/Agriculture:

  • USDA: At a time when millions of rural Americans are struggling to make ends meet, including farmers who are working hard to cope with a stubborn economic slump, this budget proposes dramatic changes to and the elimination of important Farm Bill programs, and it eliminates key programs to support rural businesses and communities.
  • Forest Service: The proposed drastic 50 percent cut in funding for State and Private Forestry programs threatens vital private forestlands that improve air and water quality, provide essential wildlife habitat, reduce global warming, and enhance the quality of life for Vermonters and all Americans.
  • EPA: The proposed 31percent budget cuts to the EPA proves that the President intends to dismantle the EPA and put polluters first by eliminating vital environmental justice, water quality, wetland and estuary programs, and pollution monitoring and prevention programs.
  • Energy: Rather than investing in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency gains that will bolster our economy, create more jobs and security for the American people, the President has decided to double down on fossil fuels, drilling in the Arctic, and again charging ratepayers for the continued broken promises on a permanent nuclear waste storage facility.

Veterans:

  • The Trump budget proposes resuming the practice ended by President Obama of rounding down Cost of Living Adjustments to the nearest dollar for veterans or their beneficiaries who receive compensation after a veteran develops a service-connected disability, as well as benefits related to dependency and indemnity compensation and certain education programs.  At least 7,400 Vermont veterans or their beneficiaries receive some form of compensation from the VA, any of whom may be affected by this change, depending on its implementation.

Federal Employees:

  • Under the Trump budget, federal employees will see changes to their employer contributions toward retirement, retirement cost of living adjustments, and calculation of annuity rates.

Homeland Security:

  • The Trump budget eliminates FEMA Continuing Training Grants, National Domestic Preparedness Consortium grants, Countering Violent Extremism/Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attack grants, and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, all of which are used by Vermont communities to prepare for different types of natural or manmade disasters.  Last year, a team of Norwich students won a nationwide Countering Violent Extremism contest to develop a program that helps de-radicalize potential extremists.

Postal Service:

  • The Trump budget proposes making unspecified “modification of USPS’s delivery schedule” and “use of more efficient delivery methods to achieve savings.”  Elimination of Saturday service, closure of post offices and processing plants, and cluster mailboxes are highly unpopular with Vermonters.  The proposal also includes unspecified changes to USPS employee benefits.  In 2016, there were just over 9,500 active and retired federal and Postal employees in Vermont.

NASA:

  • The Trump budget eliminates five state-of-the-art NASA Earth Science programs collecting or soon to collect raw data on the Earth’s climate, all of which were identified as priorities by the scientific community in their decadal review.  In 2016 alone, NASA grants of all types to Vermont institutions of higher education totaled just under $1.9 million, including grants for studying gases that contribute to climate change.

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