PROVIDENCE – “Reckless and unrealistic.” “An assault to our values as Rhode Islanders.”
These were some of the reactions to President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal on Thursday from local legislators.
U.S. Sen. Jack F. Reed denounced the budget as “reckless and unrealistic,” while U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline called it an “assault to our values as Rhode Islanders.”
Said Reed, “This is a sorry excuse for a budget by any standard. Even for a new administration, this is short on details, and yet it still clearly manages to shortchange working families. President Trump’s budget doesn’t put America first. Instead, it would shift an increasing burden to states and leave all Americans, except the wealthiest and well-connected, worse off.”
Reed said Trump wants to cut clean air and water programs, cancel after-school programs, erase consumer protection and decrease medical research. Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program assistance for seniors and eligible families would be eliminated.
“His ill-conceived cuts will lead to increased poverty and blight and halt economic progress and revitalization that benefits all citizens – all the while leaving cities, towns and states with a crushing burden,” Reed said.
Reed blasted the budget for ending support for small businesses, manufacturing initiatives and job training, and he said it also shows that the administration has “no concrete plan for economic growth.”
“Congress should never enact a budget this harmful to the American people. I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to set a more responsible course that takes a more balanced approach,” Reed said.
On Friday at 1:30 p.m., Reed will join the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, representatives of local arts organizations and creative businesses, and humanities advocates for a forum on the need to save NEA, NEH, and federal funding to support America’s museums and libraries.
The event will be held at Rhode Island School of Design.
Cicilline also did not mince words about his disappointment with the budget.
“This reckless proposal will make it even harder for working families to get ahead and for older Americans to make ends meet. It zeroes out important funding that supports manufacturing jobs by eliminating the Manufacturing Extension Partnership that supports Polaris MEP in Rhode Island, and it cuts critical job training opportunities for young people,” Cicilline said.
Cicilline said the budget proposal cuts $150 million from the WIC program, which helps provide nutritional needs to low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children, and cuts Meals on Wheels, which serves more than 8,500 Rhode Island seniors annually.
Cicilline criticized cuts to federal funding for education and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
“This might be a good talking point, but it’s foolish economic policy. Every dollar invested in the arts yields $51 in economic activity. Eliminating this funding will eliminate jobs here in Rhode Island and across America,” he said.
Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes also weighed in on the president’s proposal to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Ludes noted that more than 50 years ago, U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell was instrumental in passing bipartisan legislation to create the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“Federal support for the arts and humanities allows every American to benefit, not just the wealthy and the elite, and it makes our society stronger. The budget proposed by President Trump today casts aside not just the legacy of a great senator, but the work of artists and scholars who help us understand what it means to be American and what it means to be human,” Ludes said in prepared remarks.
Cicilline said the cuts are being made so the president can pay for a $21.6 billion border wall.
“A border wall that President Trump once promised would be paid for by Mexico, not by American taxpayers,” Cicilline said. “I will strongly oppose the cuts contained in this budget and urge my House colleagues to reject this reckless proposal.”
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse also took shots at the budget proposal.
“How exactly does allowing industrial plants to pollute our air and drinking water put America first? How does hamstringing our diplomatic corps put America first? How does pulling the rug out from scientific research and technological innovation put America first? How does kicking children out of early education or making the elderly and working families go without heat in the winter put America first?” Whitehouse asked.
U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin the proposed budget has “realized many of our worst fears by proposing dramatic cuts for programs that protect everyday Americans.”
“The budget does acknowledge the intense harm that has been caused by defense sequestration, which has long hampered the Department of Defense. It makes important investments in our readiness and our men and women in uniform. The United States faces a variety of adversaries from across the globe, and we need a more lethal fighting force to combat these threats. However, repealing defense sequestration must be done in concert with eliminating the caps on non-defense spending as well; it cannot come at the expense of critical domestic programs that support families and grow our economy. It is also particularly troubling to see deep cuts to the State Department, which in many ways supplements the Department of Defense’s efforts when it comes to enhancing our national security,” Langevin said.