Trump budget would kill funds for many programs in Maine

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President Trump released a proposed budget for the next fiscal year Monday that, if enacted, would have serious consequences across Maine.

The sweeping plan again proposes to eliminate the programs that provide heating oil to low-income Mainers, legal aid to indigent citizens, and grants to towns and cities to rehabilitate housing, infrastructure, and services. It also would stop federal funding for Maine Public’s television and radio outlets, the University of Maine’s Sea Grant research program, and the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, which would again face closure.

The White House sought to eliminate all of these programs last year, but was ultimately spurned by the Republican-controlled Congress and may be again this year. The cuts last year were opposed by Maine’s entire congressional delegation.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st District, said via email that Trump’s proposal “spells disaster for rural states like Maine and demonstrates how out of touch his administration is with the needs of the country.” Pingree, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, added: “I’ll fight the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate so many programs critical to Maine.”

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Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who represents the 2nd District, said in a statement that he was pleased the budget request strengthened national security and supported the armed forces, but was opposed to many of the president’s proposed program eliminations, including heating assistance, public broadcasting, Sea Grant and Wells.

“As I have said before, we must make sure we maintain support for programs and agencies that serve our families and communities and help protect our environment,” Poliquin said. “As Congress begins its work in the coming months on the federal budget, I will continue to push for continued support for these and other programs and agencies that do good for Maine families.”

Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said via email that the budget “contains a number of concerning provisions that would roll back programs important to Maine’s economy while also adding to the deficit.” He said he hoped congressional appropriators “prioritize smart spending to stimulate the economy and support people in rural Maine and across the country.”

Neither Sen. Susan Collins nor Gov. Paul LePage responded to requests for comment Monday.

The White House proposal, titled “Efficient, Effective, Accountable: An American Budget,” includes steep increases in military spending and funds to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, while severely reducing funding for Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and other programs.

Trump seeks to end the $3.39 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides heating assistance to about 45,000 Mainers. His budget document says “the program is no longer a necessity as states have adopted their own policies to protect constituents against energy concerns.”

The cuts also include an end to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant program, which in Maine has funded groundbreaking work on how to monitor juvenile lobster populations so researchers can better predict future health of the stock; assisted mussel, scallop and kelp farmers with research and methodological expertise; developed organic certification guidelines for sea vegetable growers; and helped monitor and contain bacteria and other marine pests that plague shellfish growers and harvesters.

Sea Grant researchers created the Fishermen’s Forum, the industry’s premier event, in 1976, and helped found the Portland Fish Exchange, the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute – which researches issues of concern to the industry – and the removal of dams and restoration of fish habitat in the Penobscot River watershed.

The budget also would eliminate funding for the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, New Hampshire’s Great Bay Estuarine Reserve, and 27 other National Estuarine Research Reserves across the country.

“We have great support in our communities and states nationwide and bipartisan support in Congress,” Wells Reserve director Paul Dest told the Press Herald via email. “We are hopeful this will prevail again with the federal FY 19 budget when it is eventually passed.”

The budget would eliminate funding for the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which provides a wide range of funds for Maine cities and towns, claiming “evaluations have been unable to demonstrate program results” and that “state and local governments are better positioned to address local community and economic development needs.” In Portland, the program has been used to fund food pantries, homeless shelters, mental health services, case work, child care subsidies for low-income single parents, a jobs program for panhandlers, community based policing and other initiatives.

At the Department of the Interior, the $13 million fund that helps compensate local communities for lost tax revenue from land included in National Wildlife Refuges also will be closed because “refuges often generate tax revenue for their communities.” Maine has 11 such reserves spread across the state, from the Moosehorn reserve near Calais to the Rachel Carson reserve in Wells and Aroostook reserve in Limestone.

The budget also would eliminate the $385 million Legal Services Corporation, a Nixon-era agency that provides funding for legal aid agencies that help the poor take grievances to court.

In Maine, the agency provides $1.4 million a year to Pine Tree Legal Assistance, which is about half of its annual budget for general legal services. The 50-year-old legal aid agency, which represents poor Mainers in 4,500 cases a year, exposed and ended debtor’s prison in Maine in the 1970s and one of its volunteers exposed a national “robo-signing” scandal among sub-prime mortgage lenders.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which gets $495 million annually and distributes most of that to local public broadcasters, also would be eliminated, depriving Maine’s statewide public radio and television broadcaster, Maine Public, of about $1.7 million, or 14 percent of its annual budget.

The president also seeks to end the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which make nearly $3 million in awards to Maine artists and cultural institutions each year, including the Maine State Museum, the Maine Historical Society, and Maine Arts Commission.

In northern Maine, the Northern Border Regional Commission also would be eliminated. The $10 million federal-state partnership has provided funding for infrastructure, land preservation, workforce training, and public services in distressed communities in the “Northern Forest region” of Maine and three other states. The closure, the budget document says, will help encourage “states and localities to partner with the private sector to develop locally tailored solutions to community problems.”

Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

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  • Henry Jacobs

    I’m okay with the proposal in general. It’s time to claw back money we send to Washington DC in order to allow those who rightfully earned it, keep it, and spend it as they see fit.

    • FrankE

      Henry, what will you do when the time comes that you yourself will need one of these programs? We all get to that point, some sooner than others. Do you actually see no problem eliminating the heating assistance program for the poor? What are you going to do if tomorrow you were told you could never work again,I’m assuming from you hefty tax savings your still working. Could you afford to lose your income. Could you live the same on about 19K as you do now? Keep in mind, the income stops, the bills don’t. Add to that any medical issues associated with your sudden downfall, trust me, even with insurance your still going to face bankruptcy eventually. Your looking at some dire circumstances. You may just need a tank of oil or help with groceries. What then, you let Trump eliminate all that waste.
      You claim it’s time to “claw back money”. Trust me you don’t know the meaning of claw until you’ve lost everything………………….

      • Henry Jacobs

        FrankE,

        I worked hard all my life, saved, invested, and never carried debt for anything but a small mortgage, so I will not have to be a social economic parasite and have to force my neighbor to pay for my heating oil.

        Now if people cannot be as fugal and independent as Henry, they can rely on charity. The Federal government has no business in paying anyone’s daily living expenses.

        • Thomas Knight

          “No man is an island.”

          • Henry Jacobs

            Yes, yes, heard it all before, but that is still no excuse for not spending less taxpayer money. Don’t worry there is enough people like me that we form a land bridge. After all, how did Trump get into the White House.

          • Thomas Knight

            Through Russia? He told us the election was rigged. I believe him.

          • Henry Jacobs

            That explains a lot.

        • Midnight Tree Bandit

          I don’t think you read Frank’s message.

          • Henry Jacobs

            Then you though wrong. Your takeaway is that I don’t buy into his premise whatsoever.

          • Midnight Tree Bandit

            Wrong. My takeaway is that you simply don’t give a damn
            about anyone who is not you.

          • Henry Jacobs

            That is an odd thing to say just because I want lower taxes and lower spending. I guess that is the standard insult for someone who wants lower spending.

          • Midnight Tree Bandit

            It’s not BECAUSE you want to do those things, it’s WHY.

          • Henry Jacobs

            The why is trivially easy to understand. People leave their families and loved ones to work and earn money, so they can provide for their families. It is government’s responsibility to ensure they keep the fruits of their labor and not have it confiscated to pay for some taker down the street who doesn’t work as hard or as many hours. The why is that simple.

          • Midnight Tree Bandit

            You just reinforced my point. Thank you.

          • Henry Jacobs

            Whatever that is because it is not very clear. Who doesn’t want to keep more of what they earned?

          • FrankE

            Have you ever just once considered someone other than yourself? I’ll tell you who wants to keep more income, this taker who lives down the street. I would settle for half my wages I was earning. I have no choice in the matter. You refer to anyone living on Government checks as a detriment to your wallet. Just keep in mind that it isn’t always voluntary. We need these programs to be funded for people such as myself. What am I supposed to do just crawl under a rock? No one in my family has ever been totally disabled that we know of, it’s not something you plan on. It is something that should be prepared for, and that requires everyone to contribute a little to help thy neighbor.
            I’m totally disabled and unable to work, I live on SSDI, approximately 1/6 of what I earned when working. My neighbor just came out of remission with MS, she’s worse off than I am, so I help her with her pet food every month. It’s not a lot but it means a lot to her. You don’t have to donate all your money, just try being a little bit more considerate of others……..

          • Henry Jacobs

            FrankE,

            I wish you the best with your personal struggles, but that does not mean I have to accept high taxes or high spending. I suggest you talk with your representatives in Washington DC and encourage them to put Americans first over illegal aliens. I will talk to my representatives and lobby for lower taxes and lower spending. I’m good with any cuts that lower spending regardless of where they come from.

            Having a heathy economy and healthy government finances is for the good of everyone – really.

        • FrankE

          You are one naive angry little old man. I used to say the same things, I had my investments, my savings I had insurance on everything I ever touched. I had a very healthy bank account and some of the companies I had stock in were some of the big names on Wall Street. Yup I had it all.
          Then one day out of nowhere I fell at work, not enough to hurt me but enough that the boss sent me to medical for a check. That was Dec 3rd, 2005. That was also the last day I ever worked. The worst part was that it took weeks for all my insurance to take effect, disability takes quite a while before you see anything. Then one day you get a bill for a five thousand dollar co pay on some twenty thousand dollar bizarre test that insurance wouldn’t cover. Course you still haven’t received a paycheck in two months. Your savings are just about dried up and pretty soon you need to start cashing in your IRA’s and liquidating stocks just to keep you head above water. I won’t even mention the fees and extra taxes for early withdrawal.
          All of this is before things begin to get painful. Don’t ever think your invincible, no one is, I can prove it. You have no idea how hard a medical disability can hit the wallet. I’ve been preaching to people for years, never assume your covered, because however much you think you’ve got, a medical condition will wipe it out in 12 months. I guess I’m luckier than some, my illness won’t kill me, but its a degenerative life long process. The cost of which keeps going up year after year. I hope you won’t need help later in life, but don’t ever dismiss the thought……….

          • Midnight Tree Bandit

            He’s not naive, Frank, he’s just selfish and self-centered. Kinda like someone we know about in public office.

          • Henry Jacobs

            You are one naive angry little old man.

            One just has to read the anger in your posts to see that you at projecting again. The fact is that Medicare is not sustainable in its present form, so cut will happen one way or another. They will happen softly, as proposed in the budget, or they will happen broadly when government runs out of other people’s money, like my money.

          • FrankE

            You just don’t get it. For years I’ve considered Conservatives as mentally challenged, You have proven my point……………

          • Henry Jacobs

            How does that compare to stomping one’s feet and storming off when Uncle Sam says no, no more free candy? No FrankE, I get. That’s why I support spending cuts. I understand that after years of taking the free candy, people can become dependent on it.

      • Henry Jacobs

        FrankE,

        One more point. All the predictions of an apocalyptic ending is just pure speculation. Rest assured that the welfare state is going nowhere even with a slightly reduced budget.

  • Thomas Knight

    Now we begin to see the price tag for those tax cuts. We are such a short-sighted people.

  • Midnight Tree Bandit

    The Drumpf budget is irrelevant Congress has already passed a two year budget.