President Donald Trump’s proposed budget attracted swift disapproval from Frederick County’s federal lawmakers on Tuesday, along with their Democratic colleagues, who called the spending plan “dead on arrival.”
The budget plan — which builds on a “skinny budget” blueprint released by the Trump administration earlier this year — includes a $54 billion boost in military spending with a corresponding cut to other government services, including education, environmental, scientific and social safety-net programs.
The Trump administration said some of the reductions are the result of increased oversight and stopping “improper payments” in programs by allowing departments to use property, immigration and death records to tighten administrative controls.
Mick Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, said the “Taxpayer First Budget” balances compassion between those who receive services and those who pay for them.
“We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs. We’re going to measure compassion and success by the number of people we help get off of those programs and get back in charge of their own lives,” Mulvaney said in a White House press briefing Tuesday morning.
Mulvaney said the budget addresses many of the president’s priorities: national security and border security, law enforcement, veterans services and school choice.
But U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-6th, said that on closer look, Trump’s budget reflected the wrong priorities and the wrong goals.
“I am appalled by the values expressed in this budget, which will greatly harm the most vulnerable among us and reward those who least need it,” Delaney said in a written statement. “This is a backwards-looking Tea Party budget that doesn’t position the country to succeed in a high-tech global economy or to lead in the industries of the future.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), who is a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said the budget request screams “Millionaires First, Working People Last.”
In a statement, he pointed to cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance and education programs, saying the budget request “afflicts the vulnerable and comforts the powerful.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, who also represents Frederick County in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, went so far as to question whether the budget was American.
“It looks like a foreign power has written it ... like the Russians are putting together our budget. It makes no sense. It’s an attack on the American people,” Raskin said in a live video broadcast on Facebook.
Raskin pointed particularly to cuts to the National Institutes of Health, which faces a $5.8 billion cut, or 18 percent of the agency’s total budget. Twenty-six of the 27 institutes are based in Maryland, including offices at Fort Detrick.
But serious cuts were also proposed by the Trump administration before Congress’ last funding resolution passed earlier this month, and lawmakers rejected the proposal, ultimately increasing the agency’s funding.
The same occurred with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which is proposed for elimination — for a second time — in Trump’s full 2018 budget proposal.
Overall, the Environmental Protection Agency would be cut more than 31 percent in the proposal.
Here’s how Trump’s budget proposal could affect Maryland:
While a federal hiring freeze was lifted last month, the federal workforce could shrink and retirees could take a hit when it comes to their benefits under the proposed budget.
A previous report from Moody’s Analytics based on the “skinny budget” concluded that the national capital region could experience increased unemployment, reductions in personal income and lower home prices as a result of reducing the federal workforce.
In Frederick County, it could be a mixed bag.
About 3,700 of Maryland’s 147,000 federal workers are in Frederick County, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics quarterly report.
Those workers include about 1,895 from the Department of the Army, which could get more funding through the proposed military spending increases, and 389 county-based federal workers connected to the Department of Health and Human Services, which faces a 16 percent cut.
When it comes to post-employment, the budget includes an elimination of the cost-of-living adjustment for current and future Federal Employee Retirement System participants and an increase in employee contributions, costing federal employees and retirees nearly $150 billion, according to Delaney’s office.
“That’s a nonstarter for us,” Raskin said. “We’re not going to allow them to attack the security of the federal workforce.”
Mulvaney defended the changes to the retirement programs Tuesday morning. “Simply put, we try and make federal retirement closer to the private sector,” he said.
Health and housing
Over 10 years, Medicaid would be cut $610 million. About 1.1 million Marylanders are enrolled in Medicaid.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program — which serves 539,000 Maryland kids — is slated for a 20 percent cut.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program faces a 25 percent, or $192 billion, cut; more than 686,000 people in Maryland use the program.
The proposed budget also cuts funding to renew Section 8 housing vouchers that families are using now and does not increase funding to meet the need that some lawmakers say exists.
In Frederick County, the waiting list for housing vouchers includes more than 2,000 people.
In particular, Delaney questioned Trump’s commitment to a nationwide infrastructure program. The budget request ends the competitive TIGER infrastructure grant program and includes major cuts to surface transportation funding through the Highway Trust Fund.
“The White House is flashing red lights and green lights at the same time on infrastructure and the most likely outcome is that we all end up crashing,” Delaney said in a written statement.
The proposed budget says that Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan will be met with a combination of new federal funding, federal incentives for private investment and by including projects “that would not have happened but for the Administration’s involvement,” for example, the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was allowed to move forward under the Trump administration.
The Chesapeake Bay Program — which coordinates watershed restoration and conservation efforts throughout the Mid-Atlantic — is slated for elimination. The program awarded the state of Maryland $9 million in 2016.
The proposed budget eliminates funding for the Community Development Block Grant program as part of a 13.2 percent decrease to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In fiscal 2016, Maryland received $7.2 million from the program. Additional funding is provided to Maryland’s Entitlement Communities under the program, which include Frederick.
As an entitlement community, the city of Frederick receives an annual award directly from HUD. Over the past 10 years, the city has primarily designated its Community Development Block Grant entitlement funding for affordable housing, revitalization and public service-related activities.
The budget also proposes eliminating funding for independent agencies, including the federal Legal Services Corporation. Maryland Legal Aid receives about $3 million to $4 million a year in funding from the federal government. There are 14 Legal Aid branches in Maryland — including a branch in downtown Frederick.