May 25, 2017
Reporter: Russell Blair and Stephen Singer – Contact Reporters
Source: Hartford Courant
EHC! asks you to please note these correct figures: 1/3 of SNAP households have a working individual and 2/3 of SNAP households have children and disabled individuals living in them.
The $4.1 trillion budget proposal President Donald Trump sent to Congress Tuesday includes massive cuts in programs for the poor that would do great harm to Connecticut’s most vulnerable populations, according to advocates and social service providers.
But the budget also includes billions of dollars to build helicopters, fighter jet engines and submarines in Connecticut. A 10 percent increase in the Pentagon budget has been offset by cuts in domestic spending across all aspects of government, including anti-poverty programs.
The proposed cuts to programs for the poor come in the midst of the state’s own fiscal crisis, so it’s unlikely Connecticut will pick up the tab and cover any loss of federal funding, advocates said.
“This is a massive cost shift to a state already struggling to meet the needs” of the poor, said Derek Thomas, fiscal policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, a New Haven-based progressive think tank.
Over the next decade, Trump’s budget proposal calls for slashing an additional $610 billion from the Medicaid insurance program for the poor and disabled, $193 billion from food stamps and $272 billion overall from welfare programs.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a liberal Democrat who has spent decades supporting programs for the needy and has a book coming out next month on the topic said the Trump budget is “the biggest threat that we have seen to the social safety net.”
Trump’s spending plan, however, could also inject billions of federal dollars into the state’s defense economy.
The $574.5 billion Pentagon budget shows the biggest items include $10.8 billion for 70 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, with jet engines made by Pratt & Whitney, and $5.5 billion for two Virginia class attack submarines manufactured by Electric Boat, according to details from the budget.
Trump also is asking Congress to approve $1.9 billion for the Columbia class submarine, $1 billion for 48 Black Hawk helicopters and $1 billion for four CH-53K heavy lift helicopters made by Sikorsky.
Shifting Costs to the States
Last year, Connecticut received $4.58 billion in Medicaid funding, $788 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and $267 million for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, commonly referred to as welfare, according to an analysis by Connecticut Voices for Children.
Jennifer Jackson, CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association, said the additional cuts to Medicaid, which is already slated to lose more $880 billion under the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, “would gut health care for the poor and shift too much of the burden onto states like Connecticut, which already has one of the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates in the nation.”
“We urge lawmakers in Washington to reject this draconian spending plan and protect our most vulnerable citizens,” she said.
Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut!, said about 425,000 people in Connecticut, or roughly one in every eight state residents, use food stamps. About 35 percent of participating households had children and 28 percent were elderly.
Nolan said cuts to food stamps would be felt more acutely in Connecticut, which has only recovered about 75 percent of the jobs it lost in the recession. The national economy has regained all lost jobs and added more.
“The thing about the food stamps program and Connecticut’s economy … Connecticut’s economy always sort of lags behind,” Nolan said. “That program has been such an incredible help for so many people.”
Accompanying the cuts, the budget proposes reforms to food stamps including a work requirement and asking states to pick up 10 percent of the program’s cost beginning in 2020. For Connecticut that would mean an annual bill of more than $78 million given the current enrollment and cost.
Kelley Hall, development, communications and grants manager for the Connecticut Association for Community Action, a network that serves anti-poverty agencies across the state, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget moves about a half-dozen programs to the line item funding the agencies and cuts that line item by 20 percent. Trump’s budget would cut their funding even more.
Malloy said his office was still assessing the impact of the proposed federal budget on the state, but “it is abundantly clear that President Trump’s budget is abysmal for working Americans.”
Rep. Joe Courtney, who represents many of the small eastern Connecticut towns that voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 and flipped to Trump last year, said the president’s budget harms the poor and working-class communities that helped to put Trump in the White House.
“There’s no question that … more rural parts of the country take it on the chin in this budget,” he said.
Courtney, a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said the budget’s elimination of subsidized student loans and the public service loan forgiveness program — which covers the cost of college for graduates who take jobs in certain fields — would make it more difficult for low-income students to attend college.
More Money for Subs
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will seek $200 million more for the Virginia class submarine to maintain the schedule and costs for boats that will have the Virginia payload module installed.
The Connecticut Democrat also is seeking additional funding for research and development for the Columbia class, money for more Black Hawks and two more CH-53Ks.
Courtney, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Trump’s budget “seems to totally ignore” a U.S. Navy assessment calling for 355 ships and an accelerated shipbuilding plan prepared by the Navy early in the Trump administration that found 29 ships could be added to the shipbuilding plan over the next few years beginning in 2018.
Blumenthal and Courtney criticized Trump’s proposed cuts to workforce development tied to submarine manufacturing. Workforce funding would be cut by 39 percent, forcing Connecticut’s manufacturing workforce pipeline to take a “big hit,” Courtney said.
With the need to hire thousands of workers by United Technologies Corp. to build the jet engines and General Dynamics Corp. to build submarines, officials are challenged to find skilled workers, Blumenthal said.
Sen. Chris Murphy, who has forged foreign policy objectives that he says try to keep the U.S. out of war following extended conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Tuesday that Connecticut-made submarines and engines for the F-35 fighter jet are what keep “us out of war.”
“We know how expensive it is to have the most modern, most capable military in the world,” he said.
The state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, while supporting Trump’s Pentagon proposals and seeking additional spending, opposes many of his domestic spending plans.
Fights over spending on health care, food stamps, environmental regulation could slow approval of the budget.
“I believe we must enhance our national defense, which requires additional investment, but recognize our national security is dependent on domestic programs that President Trump is unfortunately decimating,” Blumenthal said. “A country that has decaying roads, bridges, inadequate ports, airports, gaps in broadband and insufficient (Veterans Administration) facilities cannot be strong abroad.”