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Week of March 20, 2017

Trump Budget Breaks Promises to America

President Donald Trump introduced a condensed version of his federal budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, which starts October 1, 2017. He called his plan the “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” But the so-called “skinny” budget that lacks many program details does just the opposite. Members of Congress from all sides of the political spectrum were critical, as Congress begins its process for developing a budget plan and approving funding for the new fiscal year.   

President Trump’s budget ignores the promises he made to prioritize working people and the families they support. AFSCME President Lee Saunders said; “The budget presented (today) by President Trump is even worse than we could have imagined. His proposed cuts are so large, so dangerous, and so harmful to the basic well-being of American families that they may prove too extreme even for the extremists in Congress.” For the full statement, please go to: skinny-budget 

The cornerstone of the Trump budget is a huge shift of $54 billion from nondefense programs (NDD) to defense, veterans and homeland security, while slashing many important public and community services.  Major cuts would come out of the Departments of Health and Human Services (18%), Labor (21%), Transportation (13%), Education (15%), Agriculture (21%) and Housing (13%). In addition to a 10% increase for Defense, Veterans Affairs would increase by 5.9% and Homeland Security by 6.8%.

The Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), called the Trump budget “a betrayal of his promise to Make America Great Again” and released a report showing the state-by-state impact of some of the cuts, if enacted, on job security; health; schools; safe, clean, and secure communities; and American leadership. While this material is instructive it doesn’t show the full impact of the proposed cuts, since there is little detail about specific program cuts beyond the topline cuts to overall federal agency budgets. President Trump has stated that a full budget, which is expected later in the Spring, will include his plans for taxes, entitlement spending such as Social Security and Medicare, and greater programmatic detail.

The Trump budget also would eviscerate grants to state and local governments, which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reported in, At Risk: Federal Grants to State and Local Governments: Programs for Low- and Moderate-Income Families  Could Bear the Brunt of Cuts. Federal grants matter to state and local budgets, providing approximately 31 percent of state budgets. The grants support health care, public education, housing, community development, child care, job training, transportation, and clean water, among other programs.  These grants are already at historically low levels due to past drastic budget cuts and other austerity measures. Based on the Trump budget, the Center believes; “These grants, and the programs they support, are at serious risk of being substantially diminished or eliminated, based on proposals from President Trump and congressional Republicans. These programs are too important, particularly to low- and moderate-income people, to be considered as available resources that can be cut — either immediately or over time — to reduce the overall budget, to pay for greater defense spending, or to finance other Administration priorities such as deep tax cuts for high-income people.” 

  • Harming Workers:  The budget would slash funding for Department of Labor programs by $2.5 billion or 21% overall.  It cuts job training and employment services by $2.693 million, a cut of 35% that would result in the loss of 140,000 training slots and an estimated 5-7 million individuals losing access to employment services. It undermines worker safety by proposing to eliminate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s training grants, which provide $11 million for worker-to-worker training and eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program.  Cuts would weaken federal enforcement of workplace safety, minimum wage and other laws that protect workers. 
  • Making Families Less Secure:  The budget cuts the Department of Health and Human Services by $15.1 billion or 18%.  It eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides assistance to low-income families to heat their homes, and the Community Services Block Grant.  Cuts to the Department of Agriculture include the elimination of Meals on Wheels, a program to provide a nutritious meal for low-income, home-bound seniors, and reduction in funding for the WIC program, providing nutrition for low-income pregnant women, infants and children.
  • Harming Public Schools and Access to Higher Education:  The budget cuts the Department of Education by $9.2 billion or 15%.  It diverts funding from traditional public schools to charter schools and vouchers for private education, and eliminates funding for before- and after-school care and summer programs. It eliminates Title II funding for teacher training and classroom reduction. It cuts Pell Grants for college students and eliminates higher education grants for those with the greatest need.
  • Failing to Invest in Infrastructure:  The Department of Transportation is cut by $2.4 billion or 13%.  The budget would reduce investments in roads, rail, transit and air transportation, and implement a controversial plan to privatize air traffic control. Cuts to the Department of Agriculture reduce investments for water and wastewater treatment.
  • Weakening Communities: The Trump budget includes cuts to Economic Development Administration (EDA), the water and wastewater loan and grant program, and it would eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program. The Housing and Urban Development Department would also sustain deep cuts to the public housing operating fund and the Public Housing Capital Fund. Also, the HOME Program is eliminated.
  • Making Americans Less Healthy: Overall the funding for federal health programs is cut by roughly 18%.  Some of these cuts include an elimination of  $403 million in health professions and nurse training programs. 

Senate to Hold Hearings on President Trump’s Nominee for U.S. Supreme Court

On March 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on the nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch who President Trump has nominated to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court created when Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died a year ago.  Judge Gorsuch’s record on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has raised concerns because of a pattern of supporting corporate interests over workers, women and other interests.  AFSCME has been researching his record and will be closely following his responses to questions posed by Senators during the hearings.

Bill to Repeal the Affordable Care Act Will Cause 24 Million to Become Uninsured by 2026; Changes to the Bill Will Make it Worse 

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cut Medicaid, is scheduled for a vote by the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 23.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued an analysis of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) bill and estimates that AHCA would:

  • Cause 14 million to lose health care insurance next year;
  • Cause 24 million to be uninsured by 2026;
  • Slash Medicaid payments to the states by $880 billion over ten years;
  • Weaken the Medicare Trust Fund’s finances;
  • Cause costs to skyrocket, especially for older adults without job-based coverage;
  • Provide nearly $500 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy and selected corporations.

Despite these grim numbers, President Trump and Speaker Ryan are responding to demands by as many as 40 right-wing extremists who are threatening to oppose the bill because it does not go far enough to reduce the role of the federal government in providing health care coverage.  Speaker Ryan acknowledged late Wednesday that they are negotiating changes to the bill in order to secure enough support from the group of 40 to win passage of the bill.

Based on a debate over the bill in the House Budget Committee on Thursday, the House extremists are seeking further cuts in Medicaid and reductions in tax credits for those who do not have coverage through their job and must purchase insurance for their families.  These changes would cause more low- and moderate-income families to lose their coverage. 

Senate Approves Trump Nominee to Head Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

The Senate approved the nomination of Seema Verma to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) by a vote of 55 to 43 mostly along party lines. The federal agency oversees federal health care programs that cover 100 million Americans and spends more than $1 trillion on Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.  AFSCME opposed the nomination because Verma supports an overhaul of our health programs that would upend health coverage for millions of Americans and financially destabilize state budgets, hospitals and other providers. 

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