State delegation blasts Trump’s budget blueprint
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget drew predictable howls from Connecticut’s Democratic congressional delegation for its massive cuts to social programs, but it also evoked complaints that defense spending increases were insufficient.
The 2018 budget, officially unveiled Tuesday, boosted defense spending $54 billion next year and projected $6.7 trillion over the long term — one of the few areas besides border security to get a boost.
Even so, Sikorsky Aircraft, the backbone of the defense industry in Fairfield County, gets $1 billion for 48 Black Hawks, which is 12 less than the Pentagon anticipated.
Similarly, the budget designates $1 billion for four Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopters, two less than anticipated. The King Stallion is a heavy-lift copter used primarily by the Marine Corps.
The budget also low-balls Sikorsky on its combat rescue helicopter and replacements for Vietnam-era UH-1N Hueys used by the Air Force to guard nuclear-weapons installations and transports.
And it also does not fully fund leaves out funding related to attack and nuclear-missile-launching submarines produced by Electric Boat in Groton.
“Additional spending on national defense is great for Connecticut, but it is less than fully optimal,’’ said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’m not arguing for indiscriminate defense spending, but these are strategically vital programs.’’
“We’re still poring over the budget to find out what it means for the defense programs that are made in Connecticut, but we know we need to have increased funding to make sure we have the most modern, most capable military in the world,’’ said Sen. Chris Murphy, who is on a military appropriations subcommittee. “We make indispensable programs to our national security in Connecticut.’’
But for the most part, Democrats reacted with a mixture of chagrin and outrage to President Trump’s spending plan, which his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, characterized as a “taxpayer-first’’ budget.
It aims at building up government programs that work, leaving Social Security and Medicare alone, Mulvaney said. But it cuts programs that in the Trump administration’s estimation do not work.
Included for cuts are programs popular in Connecticut, including education, job training, Medicaid and scientific research.
Democratic lawmakers condemned the reductions as short-sighted and hurtful to the most vulnerable.
“The budget hollows out our economy and lacks a vision for how to create good paying jobs, promote opportunity for all, and keep America safe,’’ said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn.
“President Trump’s proposal moves us in the wrong direction, said Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.. “Congress should start over from scratch on a bipartisan plan.’’
Indeed, Congress generally views presidential budgets as guideposts of an administration’s political orientation rather than as documents requiring full adoption.
The budget would take away more than $800 billion in Medicaid funding over a decade, as well as reduce Food Stamps (SNAP) by $193 billion, and welfare (TANF) by $21 billion.
The impact of cuts in Connecticut is uncertain, but there are over 400,000 Food Stamps recipients in the state, as well as 771,588 Medicaid beneficiaries and 18,865 on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
The Trump budget also would cut $72 billion from Social Security disability. In Connecticut, over 63,000 are on SSI (Supplemental Security Income), which cost $35.9 million in 2015.
Apart from the impact on those most in need, Blumenthal was particularly critical of Trump budget cuts to scientific research conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“This is life-and-death stuff,’’ he said. “In Connecticut, we don’t have oil or coal or uranium. We do science and we do research, and this undermines what we do best.’’