Trump budget lays out deep cuts to safety net programs

WASHINGTON — A $4 trillion federal budget proposal expected to be unveiled by the Trump administration Tuesday will call for deep cuts to safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps while increasing spending for infrastructure and a paid parental leave program.

The budget blueprint, which is certain to face resistance on Capitol Hill, is expected to recommend eliminating federal funding for the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, slashing money for housing grants used heavily in Baltimore and requiring federal workers to contribute more to their retirement savings.


Though unlikely to advance in its current form, the proposal offers the clearest view yet of how President Donald J. Trump would like to overhaul benefit programs that are driving budget deficits while also increasing funding in areas like border security and defense spending that he frequently touted during his campaign last year.

"It's a taxpayer-first budget," said Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief. "It is the first time in my memory that a budget has been written through the perspective, through the eyes of the people who pay taxes as much as the folks who receive the benefit."


On Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people, the budget would cut more than $800 billion over 10 years, accounting for the single largest spending cut in the proposal.

It's not clear how many of Maryland's 1.3 million beneficiaries would be affected.

Trump, who is traveling overseas this week as his budget is rolled out, promised during the campaign to "save" Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts. The proposal makes good on that promise for Medicare and Social Security, but administration officials said Medicaid cuts are needed because the proposal would create a health insurance system that is "better than Obamacare."

A Medicaid expansion included in the Affordable Care Act is central to a historic drop in the number of uninsured Americans. Nationwide surveys suggest at least 20 million previously uninsured Americans have gained coverage since 2014.


Mulvaney said the budget also includes changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known colloquially as food stamps, including a work requirement for beneficiaries and also requiring states to chip in far more of the expense. Those changes would save $190 billion in that program over the next decade.

"We need people to go to work," Mulvaney said. "We need everybody pulling in the same direction."

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan noted that the budget is unlikely to pass as is, and said the governor is "on the record opposing many of these cuts." The spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse, said Hogan, "will continue fighting for Maryland [and] our priorities — which include preserving the Chesapeake Bay and ensuring Marylanders have access to healthcare coverage."

Executive budgets are almost always disregarded by Congress, where lawmakers set actual spending through the annual appropriations process. The budget does demonstrate the administration's priorities, and signal ideas guaranteed to win the president's signature should they reach his desk in a bill.

The White House released a so-called "skinny budget" in March, which proposed many of the same reductions in discretionary spending. The new, more robust document covers the same period — the fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1 — but will lay out the proposals in more detail and address safety net programs for the first time.

Few of Trump's proposals had any impact on Congress as it considered and approved funding legislation this month to keep the government running for the remainder of this fiscal year. Now lawmakers must fight many of those same battles again — on funding for a border wall, Planned Parenthood and medical research, among others.

Some Democrats are likely to be needed to squeak another funding bill through Congress, which will give them the leverage to push back on some of what the White House is requesting.

"Trump's budget proposal would do nothing to make America great again," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat. "It will be a disaster for the state of Maryland and will place a significant burden on the state's resources and its people."

Some Republicans, meanwhile, already have objected to the scale of some cuts that the White House has advertised in advance, in programs ranging from State Department operations abroad to community health spending.

Many beneficiaries of the targeted programs are working-class Americans from whom Trump drew so much political support. The scale of proposed Medicaid cuts would likely lead to widespread coverage losses, according to independent experts, some state officials and advocates for children, the elderly and others who rely on the 52-year-old program.

White House officials did not directly answer questions from The Baltimore Sun about whether the document will call for ending federal funding for Chesapeake Bay cleanup. But a summary of spending the administration released late Monday includes the same $2.6 billion overall funding reduction at the Environmental Protection Agency that Trump had sought earlier this year.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker called the proposed cuts "outrageous," arguing in a statement that the program has "strong bipartisan support because it is working."

Trump's budget will include $200 billion over the decade for infrastructure investment, which the administration said can be leveraged to amass $1 trillion for airports, bridges, roads and other projects — a nod to a major campaign pledge and an issue that has the potential to capture bipartisan support.

The plan also calls for putting aside $25 billion for a six-week paid parental leave program, an idea pushed by Trump's daughter Ivanka that has faced resistance from fellow Republicans

Federal employee unions have voiced concern about reports that the administration will require many of them to contribute more to their retirement, more than offsetting a proposed 1.9 percent raise. Maryland is home to more than 300,000 federal workers, and even small changes in federal compensation can add up to a measurable impact on the state's economy.

Trump's proposed budget would balance by 2027, but that is largely because it assumes 3 percent growth in the economy beginning next year. That view of the U.S. economic growth is rosier than that of the Congressional Budget Office, which projects an average of 1.9 percent over the next decade.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates for fiscal restraint, criticized Trump for failing to propose the difficult, major structural changes needed to financially fix the major entitlement programs other than Medicaid — Social Security and Medicare — and constrain the projected growth of federal debt in the long term.

The United States has only had such high rates of economic growth during a demographic shift, such as the decades when baby boomers were entering the workforce and in their prime working years, MacGuineas said.


"These gauzy economic predictions will end up resulting in enormous piles of debt," she said.


The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article.


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