Business & Economy

Trump takes aim at rural areas and poor with budget plan

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump addresses Congress.

(VTDigger’s Erin Mansfield contributed to this report.)

WASHINGTON — Republican President Donald Trump on Tuesday released his detailed budget proposal for next year, an austere vision for America that would deeply cut funding for programs in poor, rural areas while providing tax breaks for the wealthy and boosting the military.

In short, the plan for fiscal year 2018 — titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness” — would hurt many of Trump’s supporters, many of whom voted for a candidate who pledged to fight for the little guy and to protect, even bolster, social safety nets.

“This budget’s defining ambition is to unleash the dreams of the American people,” Trump wrote in a preface. “This requires laying a new foundation for American Greatness.”

The president’s proposal calls for a 10 percent increase in military spending while cutting nonmilitary discretionary programs 10.6 percent, or $57 billion. The cuts, which would increase over the next years for a number of programs, are part of the White House’s goal of eliminating the federal budget deficit by 2027.

Trump would slash the budget for Medicaid by $620 billion between 2020 and 2027. The Vermont Agency of Human Services estimates that would cost the state’s $1.7 billion Medicaid program around $200 million.

The president would also slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps and in Vermont as 3SquaresVT; and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is called Reach Up in Vermont.

Trump’s budget would also eliminate the cost-of-living adjustment in federal employee salaries.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, would be eliminated, a $3.3 billion savings. Vermont got about $19 million for LIHEAP in 2016, helping more than 21,000 households.

Trump’s budget also calls LIHEAP a program with “sizeable fraud and abuse, leading to program integrity concerns.” The budget says the agencies that process applications have done “little to prevent awards from being provided to individuals with fake addresses and fake energy bills.”

Additionally, the budget says the program “is no longer a necessity” because all 50 states have enacted laws to prevent utilities from disconnecting people under certain circumstances. The budget said 15 states protect people from having their electricity cut off during cold weather in the winter.

The 3SquaresVT program would see an unknown reduction in the $113 million in federal dollars the Department for Children and Families pays out every year. There were 77,400 people using the program at the end of March, and 75 percent of them were either children, elderly or disabled.

“Our concern would be that any impact would fall disproportionately on folks who, it would be very difficult for them to make it up someplace else,” said Sean Brown, the deputy commissioner for DCF.

Al Gobeille
Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille. File photo by Andrew Kutches/VTDigger

Al Gobeille, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, called Trump’s budget “a reduction budget, not an innovation budget.” He said he doesn’t support the budget because the cuts would be hard on the people he serves.

“We work real hard to make sure that there is not fraud in Vermont programs of any of the eligibility criteria,” Gobeille said. “I think that it is pretty disingenuous to label everyone in need of assistance as somehow fraudulent. To paint our most vulnerable folks with that brush isn’t fair.”

He said: “If you’re an 85-year-old woman and you’re relying on heating assistance to heat your home when it’s 45 degrees inside, that is so real to you. It’s not political. It’s not a bumper sticker. That’s your life.”

All three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation immediately panned the proposal as a mean-spirited, misguided strategy for the future. While Republicans were more muted in their reactions, the major planks of the Trump proposal have a low likelihood of being adopted by congressional leaders.

In his proposal, Trump does not restructure Social Security or Medicare, two of the most expensive and popular federal programs. A comprehensive breakdown of proposed cuts in the safety net can be found here.

“There’s a certain philosophy wrapped up in the budget, and that is — we are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs,” said White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, one of the budget’s chief architects, in a Monday news conference. “We’re not going to measure our success by how much money we spend, but by how many people we actually help.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the proposal is “immoral,” contending that it will “cause an enormous amount of pain for the most vulnerable people in our nation.” Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., offered a similar indictment, saying the Trump budget “throws overboard the rural Americans who elected him.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, called the budget reckless and a “compilation of broken promises to working men and women.”

“Rural America, including rural states like Vermont, is MIA in the president’s budget,” Leahy said. “His budget eliminates key investments in rural communities, leaving them without federal partnership support for everything from infrastructure development and affordable housing, to programs that preserve the environment and provide food for the elderly.”

Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s spokesperson, Rebecca Kelley, said in a statement that “the administration is carefully reviewing the president’s budget and evaluating the potential impacts on the state budget and programs and services for Vermonters.”

“While the president has proposed significant investments in the nation’s infrastructure – and the governor agrees with the assessment we need to invest in our roads, bridges and other public means of transportation – the cuts in the budget that would be incurred by Vermont agencies, including Human Services, Natural Resources and Education, are very concerning,” Kelley said.

“It is important to note this is a proposed budget and will go through congressional changes and review. The governor and his team will work closely with Vermont’s delegation and other governors to identify and protect against changes that could adversely affect Vermonters.”

Health and Human Services

Trump’s budget is designed with the assumption that the American Health Care Act — the latest Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — will pass. The budget says that would save $250 billion across multiple agencies.

The budget reduces funding to several parts of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The budget would eliminate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality entirely.

Global health programs — including those that fund treatment for HIV and AIDS — would be cut by $2 billion. The budget calls the U.S. a major funder of global public health programs and calls on other countries to start paying more.

Cows at a dairy farm in Addison County. File photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Rural Economy and Agriculture

Trump would cut $855 million in programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including ones popular in the Green Mountain State.

As Vermont struggles to deal with phosphorous pollution in Lake Champlain largely caused by agricultural runoff, Trump would slash the Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program by nearly $500 million, effectively eliminating the program.

This program currently provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal and sanitary solid waste disposal across Vermont and the country.

Trump would also reduce rural conservation grants by $83 million, a potentially troubling cut in the eyes of Anson Tebbetts, Vermont’s agriculture secretary.

Tebbetts said Trump’s proposal is still relatively light on detail. But he said that, if implemented, it could mean less support for everything from pesticide data programs to the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

Anson Tebbetts
Anson Tebbetts, secretary of the Agency of Agriculture. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

“We are keeping our eyes peeled on developments,” Tebbetts said. “The EQIP program, for example, really helps our farmers with conservation practices to improve the quality of Vermont’s soil, water and land.”

The salaries for USDA’s rural workers would also be cut by $53 million under Trump’s proposal, a move that could reduce technical and grant assistance to Vermont farmers.

Trump would also eliminate the Rural Business and Cooperative Service. The service offers grants ranging from $10,000 to $500,000 to businesses with fewer than 50 employees in rural areas.

One such grant, totaling $357,990, enabled Maxwell Farms in Newport to buy a methane digester. Once the digester was purchased, the 850-cow farm created a new income stream selling power to a local utility.

Also on the chopping block are Community Services Block Grants, which fund construction projects, such as senior housing facilities and local libraries.

Single Family Housing Direct Loans, which offer home loans to middle-class families in rural areas, would be scrapped, for a total savings of $61 million.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which funds consulting services for small- and medium-size businesses, would see $124 million of its $130 million evaporate.

The Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center, which is affiliated with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, has offered advice to businesses small and large across the state for more than two decades. The organization’s website features executives from IBM and Vermont Creamery thanking it for critical support.

Bob Zider, president of the Vermont center, told VTDigger in March that the $124 million allocated to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership is a small price to pay for a service that helps to sustain manufacturing.

“The idea to cut this is contradictory to President Trump’s agenda to boost manufacturing jobs,” Zider said. “The MEP network is vital to the White House’s overall agenda. We help small manufacturers across the nation.”

Also on the chopping block is the Economic Development Administration, which would see the vast majority of its $251 million budget cut. The EDA supports various organizations in the state, including the Vermont Community Loan Fund.

The Economic Development Administration invested $265,000 in 2016 to boost the green energy economy around Vernon in an effort to mitigate the economic impact of shutting down the Vermont Yankee power plant. In 2013, the EDA invested $6.5 million in Vermont. The money was used to improve internet and communications infrastructure in 25 communities throughout the state.

Another job program that would come to an end is the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps older people find jobs. Vermont Associates for Training & Development has been recognized nationally for its successful implementation of the program.

Trump is also advocating to eliminate all but $1 million for the Northern Border Regional Commission, which supports economic development in rural, economically challenged areas of the state. Last year, Vermont received $1.8 million from the commission.

Lake Champlain Carry Bay
Lake Champlain at Carry Bay in North Hero. Photo courtesy Lake Champlain Basin Program


The Environmental Protection Agency would be one of the hardest hit agencies under Trump’s plan, with a proposed 31 percent budget cut.

About $32 million from the EPA supports Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation annually.

Julie Moore, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, said she expected Trump’s proposal to be moderated but that it was still a startling plan.

“I wouldn’t describe the budget as reassuring in any way, now that we have more details,” Moore said. “Frankly it’s alarming because of its statement of priorities.”

Julie Moore
Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore. File photo by Mike Faher/VTDigger

The cuts, if implemented, would gut funding for the Lake Champlain Basin Program, depriving the cleanup effort of millions of dollars annually.

Federal support for state forestry programs would be halved, resulting in reduced upkeep and conservation of wildlife in Vermont.

The president is also looking to reduce funding for Superfund cleanup sites by $330 million, and general grant money would be cut by $482 million. Moore said there is also talk of shifting Superfund efforts to the national office, which could complicate how the state currently works to clean up polluted properties.

In addition, Trump would eliminate the Energy Star efficiency program and other climate programs for a savings of $66 million, and would curtail enforcement measures from the EPA, cutting funding for that sector by nearly a fourth.

Moore said there is also talk of shuttering an EPA regional office serving Vermont, which would hobble the technical EPA assistance relied upon by Vermont. Various EPA labs are also being considered for shutdown, including a lab in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Moore said Vermont “relies on that lab to do many different sorts of tests and analyses.”

“EPA is an important partner in a lot of the work our agency does, both in terms of technical and financial assistance,” Moore said. “I can’t overvalue how important it is to have a robust Environmental Protection Agency.”

A teacher works with students at Union Elementary in Montpelier. File photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDigger


Trump’s budget would cut education spending by nearly $10 billion. To find these savings, the government would make changes for students at all learning levels, from ending federal subsidies on student loan interest to scaling back child nutrition programs.

Trump’s cuts to the Department of Education would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, a $1.1 billion program established by the late U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, of Vermont.

The program, based on a pilot project at the H.O. Wheeler School in Burlington, supports before- and after-school programs, as well as summer programs.

The Trump budget would also phase out public service loan forgiveness, where qualified jobs in government or in nonprofits are eligible for loan forgiveness after 10 years of employment. Trump also targets the federal TRIO program, which offers college counseling and assistance to working class students overwhelmed by the complex application process.

Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe said her agency already has federal spending commitments for fiscal year 2018, and she was hopeful that bipartisan pushback would emerge over Trump’s cuts. Vermont received $125 million in federal education dollars last year, $32 million of which went to child nutrition, Holcombe said.

“Trump has signaled a desire to reduce support for our most vulnerable children, but members of both parties strongly support programs that assist these populations,” Holcombe said.

Rebecca Holcombe
Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

Holcombe said, despite her expectation that Trump’s budget will be moderated, she was concerned by the president’s proposal.

Child nutrition programs would be cut, and so would after-school extended learning programs. Millions of federal dollars allocated to train teachers would evaporate. Trump has also proposed cuts to technical education programs passed in the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.

“Our tech centers are doing extraordinary work for first-generation college students involved in the Fast Forward program,” Holcombe said. “We have one of the highest graduation rates for high school yet one of the lowest rates of postsecondary education in the country, so we need that support.”

The Trump budget also calls for a 21 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health, which could jeopardize millions of dollars funneled to the University of Vermont for research projects.

“I would encourage folks to keep advocating for crucial support for education and kids,” Holcombe said. “I hope there is strong bipartisan pushback to these proposals.”

Arts and Culture

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would see $454 million of its $484 million budget evaporate under Trump’s plan.

In 2014, the CPB allocated $1.7 million in Vermont to subsidize four public access TV stations, including Vermont PBS. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting gave grants to 17 radio stations across the state, including Vermont Public Radio, which received $754,000 from the government.

In a statement Tuesday, PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger said Trump’s proposed cuts would “result in a tremendous loss to our country that would be especially devastating for rural and underserved communities.”

“For about $1.35 per citizen, per year, Americans reap significant benefits in terms of school readiness for children, trusted resources for teachers and home-schoolers, civil discourse and critical public safety communications,” Kerger said.

The National Endowment for the Arts and its counterpart for the humanities would lose more than $200 million.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services would see nearly all of its budget eliminated under Trump, as would the Corporation for National and Community Service. Between 2016 and 2017, the CNCS committed more than $6.2 million to support Vermont communities through service projects administered by groups including AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity.

Next Steps in Congress

Although Republicans control Congress, Trump’s proposal may receive a chilly reception on the Hill. And in the Senate, where Republicans hold a two-seat majority, Democrats will likely be needed to pass a sweeping budget out of the chamber.

During negotiations on the 2017 budget earlier this year, legislators of both parties ditched Trump’s plan, including his request for money for a Southern border wall. Negotiators forged a rare bipartisan deal that kept most federal agencies funded at current levels. Some programs benefitting Vermonters, like USDA clean water grants and programs fighting the opioid crisis, even saw increases over 2016 levels.

Patrick Leahy
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., talks with an aide. File photo by Jasper Craven/VTDigger

Leahy was the top Democratic negotiator hammering out a spending plan that runs until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. Leahy is reprising this role as 2018 budget talks heat up. (In May, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., gave Leahy an “A-plus” for his first round of negotiations.)

Leahy said Tuesday he would immediately begin work scheduling hearings and open debate over the 12 appropriations bills laying out spending levels in various areas.

“The president’s budget proposal is not bipartisan,” Leahy said in a statement. “And it is not in the best interests of the country or of the real priorities of the American people. It’s unbalanced, needlessly provocative and appallingly short-sighted. It is not a pathway toward returning the Senate to doing its work the way it is supposed to be done. More than being dead on arrival, this budget is truly odious on arrival.”

Leahy is close with Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss. The two recently collaborated on the Farm to School Act of 2015, which supports the use of local farm produce for school lunch programs.

The two worked successfully on the 2017 deal. In a statement Tuesday, Cochran suggested the Senate would be drafting a proposal separate from Trump’s.

“The Appropriations Committee will immediately begin to hold hearings and do the work necessary to prepare appropriations bills that responsibly provide for our national security and other priorities,” Cochran said. “We have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.”

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Jasper Craven

About Jasper

Jasper Craven is VTDigger’s political reporter. A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. He double-majored in print journalism and political science at Boston University, and worked in the Boston Globe’s Metro and Investigative units. While at the Globe he collaborated on Shadow Campus, a three-part investigative series focused on greed and mismanagement in Boston’s off-campus student housing market. The series was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.
He also spent two years at MuckRock, a news sited dedicated to investigation and analysis of government documents. 

Craven covered Vermont’s U.S. Congressional delegation for the Times Argus in the summer of 2014, and worked as a Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune before joining the staff of VTDigger.

Email: [email protected]

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  • Martha Stretton

    Why should we be so dependent on federal funds? Why can we not take care of our own?

    • William Cheney

      I agree Martha. Things done at the local level have better results in the end.

    • Matthew Davis

      We are dependent on federal funds because VT is a low-income state with an aging population. In order to become less dependent upon the feds, we will have to generate more income and tax revenue here in VT. We should all be advocating for this, but it will take change, and that is fundamentally difficult for VTers….

  • walter carpenter

    “an austere vision for America that would deeply cut funding for programs in poor, rural areas while providing tax breaks for the wealthy and boosting the military.”

    Well, at least we know who has influenced him the most and who he cares about the least.

    • Peter Chick

      I believe Trump cares more about the USA than Obama ever did.

      • David Bell

        Why, because he colluded with a hostile foreign government to swing the election? Or because he is calling to gut funding for programs that help tens of millions to fund tax cuts to the wealthiest of the wealthy?

  • Dave Bellini

    “Making America great again” — Like it was in 1930…? The champagne corks will be popping at GOP headquarters if this budget goes through. It’s who they are.

    • Peter Chick

      So Dave do we keep diving deeper into debt at light speed?

      • Matthew Davis

        No, we cut the military budget by half, stop starting wars we can’t pay for and we should be good.

        • Peter Chick

          Obama had every opportunity to do just that.

          • Matthew Davis

            No kidding…what’s your point? Bush/Cheney had the chance to raise the debt massively, and they did it, all for military industrial complex profits. Obama put it into the drone program….It’s all bad and time to downsize the military…bigly.

          • Peter Chick

            After we make America safe again.

          • Matthew Davis

            Safe from whom?

          • Peter Chick

            Those with no clue!

        • Anne L Hilliard

          Yeah, let ISIS just come on in. That makes sense. Just open those borders and there will be no more problems. “Can’t we all just get along”?

      • Liz Leyden

        Trump’s a Republican, so deficits don’t matter.

        • Peter Chick

          Because they eliminate them.

          • David Bell

            Deficits exploded under Reagan and Bush.

          • JohnGreenberg

            That’s a laugh line. Right?

            I have neither the time nor the inclination right now, but if you look at any chart of government statistics, you will see that, at least since Jimmy Carfer, Republican presidents have substantially increased budget deficit. In the cases of Reagan and GW Bush, they did so by enormous numbers.

    • Dan DeCoteau

      20 trillion in debt, unfunded promises to social security, medicare and retirement funds, bloated welfare roles to the tune of $100 trillion, where will people go when this all collapses? The typical liberal approach is to deny the problem then forge ahead with more gimmes to some and taxes to all to keep poor people dependent on the government for their votes. Some people need help and that is better determined at the local level. Waste, fraud and abuse is out of control. Young men standing in front of me at the grocery store paying with state supplied benefits with no residency requirement is an example of why it needs to be brought back to to states. Why should Vermont care who is defrauding the system when the money comes from the fed? As Bob Dylan once sang about “the times, they are a changin” and it’s about time!

      • Liz Leyden

        How do you know they weren’t residents? Did they not look like “regular” Vermonters?

      • Julia Purdy

        What, didn’t the cashier ask them where they live and to see their ID before they paid for their potato chips?

  • Trump is being a dutiful Republican, and everything he is doing has been on the Republican wish list for decades.

    The Republicans and Trump have since the days post-Eisenhower pushed the idea that duty and country is about “me” and not “us”. It is no accident that the Republican Party tried to foist quitter half-term Alaskan governor Palin to be our Vice-President; and it is no accident that the Republican Party nominated for President and won with a narcissistic, dishonest, willfully ignorant, racist, misogynist, bully-wannabe with an authoritarian outlook on life.

    Trump embodies with perfection today’s Republican Party.

    • William Cheney

      All that name calling and no ” real” solution to the problem. We as tax payers have seen enough of this already Rama. Please give us some solid ideas.

    • Kyle Hislop

      Obama ran for President after serving only 2 years of his Senate term so I guess he is a “quitter” to.

      • Julia Purdy

        Well, I wouldn’t say that made him a “quitter!” And by the way, it’s “too,” not “to.”

        • Kyle Hislop

          That’s right, vacating an office only makes you a quitter if you are a Republican. I forget about the double standard sometimes.

  • Anne L Hilliard

    This budget takes place over a period of 10 years. The COB considers it a cut when LEVEL FUNDING is applied. Growth is baked into the COB ; This is NOT a reduction as one would think of in their own budget. This is a slow down in growth. The welfare programs will be given back to the states where they belong (actually, it would probably be better at the local level). Under Obama, the SNAP program grew from 28 million to 44 million continuing a cycle of poverty. That kind of growth is unsustainable and will turn the United States into Mozambique if left as is. What is ‘inhumane’ is what it does to the taxpayers. I hope VTDIGGER REALLY looks into this budget. From what I can glean, it appears that they have taken a cursory look and have handed the article, which they most likely got from a liberal news media, and passed it off as gospel. along with grants

    • Steve Baker

      Juicy “sky is falling” headlines are far better for the narrative and business. The left has always been able to define level funding or less growth in funding as a draconian cut to services.

      • David Bell

        Yeah, when inflation adjusted dollars mean reduction in benefits; let’s just pretend everyone has just as much.

    • William Cheney

      I agree with the idea that the welfare programs should be dealt with at the local levels where there would be better scrutiny over the abuse. I also believe that this news was gleaned with little ” indepth reporting” taking place by the reporter. The Digger appears to lean more and more towards siding with one party and not really reporting the truth.

    • Michelle Fay

      SNAP addresses hunger, a consequence of poverty, which is caused by an economic and political system that is designed to advance the interests of a small group of elites. Saying SNAP continues a cycle of poverty is like saying the Red Cross supports traumatic injuries.

      • Edward Letourneau

        Actually there are studies indicating that welfare does create a dependency.

        • Julia Purdy

          Welfare was not created for the poor. It was created to keep the bottom from falling out of the economy. Welfare payments, housing subsidies, LIHEAP, food stamps – they don’t get stashed away in off-shore accounts. They get SPENT on daily necessities and local merchants, landlords and food vendors reap the benefit. There isn’t even anything left for recreation except sit on the porch or take the kids to the park. Not kidding. The poor probably know better where their money goes than Donald Trump knows where his money goes.

      • Dan DeCoteau

        The last time I checked there were 3 welfare fraud investigators in Vermont. Fraud and abuse is out of control. Snap card users can now draw cash for items such as alcohol, drugs and anything else that’s not allowed by the regulations. Healthy young adults should be made to do public service for their benefits and random drug testing for those who may sell or use the cash benefit for drug and alcohol use. But, who cares it’s money from Washington DC?

        • Liz Leyden

          Florida tried drug testing welfare recipients around 2006. It was very expensive, 96% of people tested passed, and the governor’s wife was part owner of the company that won the contract.

        • Julia Purdy

          Tell me, where did you check to find out how many fraud investigators there are now? I’d like to know.

      • Anne L Hilliard

        How about “the best way to eliminate poverty is providing JOBS” ???? Not only will jobs drastically reduce poverty but will empower those who join the work force with dignity and worth. And that will help society in more ways than just monetary.

    • David Bell

      Take a look at SNAP as a percentage of the federal budget; calling this a budget buster is as logical as saying if you are cold start burning $100 bills.

      What is inhumane is telling the poor to starve so the rich can get a nice big tax cut.

      • Edward Letourneau

        There is fraud in SNAP. I know of people who get cards worth $600 a month that they sell for $300 cash and go to the free food pantries for food.

        • David Bell

          So, if there is fraud in a program, we gut it?

          The military would literally cease to exist.

          • Anne L Hilliard

            No, we ferret out the fraud and fix it.

          • David Bell

            That would involve investigations, not gutting the program.

        • Julia Purdy

          I highly doubt it. Have you ever needed to apply to those programs? Didn’t think so, from the way you are talking. Just another case of blame the victim.

        • Robert Lehmert

          You know people who do this? Seriously? Where do you hang out to meet such people? Sorry – but I think that such comments are complete hyperbole which do a disservice to the naive public. If I’m wrong, why not share the facts with VTDigger so the facts can be explored?

          • Edward Letourneau

            Well I met them. Stop trying to avoid the reality of what goes on. And by the way, if you report these things to the state, nothing happens.

      • Anne L Hilliard

        Don’t be droll. Snap is just ONE program. There are so many others but no time or space to discuss them. And your ‘inhumane’ comment is foolish.

      • Julia Purdy

        And we’re not even talking about “the poor.” There are a lot of us “working poor” out here – income capped at $2,000/month before deductions, because there is nothing else out there. During the Great Recession, the 1% considered themselves “job creators.” But they wouldn’t start “creating jobs” until conditions were perfect. Meanwhile, it’s the middle class that hires the middle class and low-income workers. And the middle class is shrinking: a few become millionaires, most are treading water. If LIHEAP is ended, for example, that will literally take money out of the pocket of fuel dealers. All the social programs are that way: pass-throughs that don’t subsidize their income-eligible recipients to sit around but that keep a chunk of the economy afloat. (And I have no idea how you could produce a fake fuel bill or address. All the programs are cross-referenced – and they DO check. Welfare fraud is just another urban myth perpetuated by those who feel cheated.)

        • David Bell

          Well said.

  • Louise Goodrich

    Maybe it’s time to think about not sending our tax money to Washington, keeping here at home and helping our citizens. This budget is draconian. The Republicans’ need to placate their rich donors while pushing aside the vanishing middle class and the poor, is immoral and unconscionable. Billionaires don’t care about the rest of us, when will people realize this??

    • Tim Vincent

      This is the BIGGEST budget in the history of budgets.

    • Peter Chick

      And what about the democrats rich donors? They got us to where we are now. Up to our collective necks in debt. You are right billionaires with a D or a R do not care.

    • Matthew Davis

      The problem is that we receive more from the Feds. than we send….We should be working on finding solutions to this fundamental issue.

      • Liz Leyden

        How is federal money a bad thing? Ted Stevens was practically worshipped for the amount of federal funds he brought to Alaska.

  • Deborah Billado

    The state’s have become supersized pigs at the federal trough. Everyone enjoyed the overspending and now it’s time to pay the final bill and pains of reducing. No one wants to share the pain. All that pork has too many anesthetized. We need to get off the federal teats and live within our means. If that means cuts at home then so be it. The money runs out at some point and poor planning has never been a good strategy for the future.

    • Matthew Davis

      Not all states are “takers” of federal dollars. In fact, quite a few pay more than they receive in federal funding. Ironically, it is mostly red states that receive the most federal funding, while many blue states pay more. Kind of ironic that the states that are represented by those that argue most for smaller govt. and for cutting “welfare” programs are actually the ones that receive the most.

      Low income states like VT are typically receivers of more federal funding. While it may seem intuitive to suggest the problem is that we just need to tighten our belts and cut back, I would suggest that the best thing we as a state could do is to work to generate more economic activity here, and thus generate more tax revenue with which to pay our own way.

  • Tony Morgan

    FYI Community Services Block Grants fund Community Action Agencies a.k.a “war on poverty” activities. Community Development Block Grants fund the infrastructure activities you describe.

    • Peter Chick

      Your “war on poverty” has been a failure. VT needs good paying full-time, year round jobs. Taxing young people out of state makes no sense. Your block grants are a bandaid on a broken neck. A few administrators do well with these grants but that is about it.

      • DougHoffer

        “Taxing young people out of state makes no sense.”

        Please provide evidence to support this statement.

        • Steve Baker

          If the overall tax burden in Vermont it’s much greater then New Hampshire, where is your proof that young people wouldn’t rather live in New Hampshire ?

        • Peter Chick

          Take a drive on any back road in VT.

        • Edward Letourneau

          How about this — its the young that have families and children. VT schools have lost 20% of their students in the past 20 years. Start looking at evidence you don’t want to see.

      • Robert Lehmert

        Young people don’t have jobs, but they’re being taxed so much that they leave? Taxed how? On their real estate or what?

  • I’m not a Trump supporter nor do I believe this proposed budget is at all the best we can do. Nonetheless, It’s too bad that this piece reads more like an editorial than an objective work of reporting.

    It’s common practice these days to characterize conservative principals with the brush of cold selfishness. Those nasty Republicans want everything for themselves and care naught about anyone who isn’t rich, white and male. Of course, when the Democrats were in power the reverse was true. The relative parity between Democrats and Republicans in the ranks of the 1% should negate wealth as the sole source of destructive economic self-interest but it’s easier to demonize those we disagree with than respectfully debate differences in approach.

    Oversimplification is the enemy of solution.

    Neither conservatives or liberals have a monopoly on solutions these days. We all suffer from the universally human attribute of tending to believe fervently in tactics effective in the past. Painting each other as either inhumane, self interested and cold hearted or lazy, envious and irresponsible simply makes working together to navigate the new emerging global socioeconomic landscape impossible.

    We all love our children and want a better future for them. Let’s start there.

    • David Bell

      “It’s common practice these days to characterize conservative principals with the brush of cold selfishness.”

      Because it’s an accurate descriptor.

      This budget is a massive tax cut to the wealthiest of the wealthy paid for by everyone else. Medical research, welfare programs that provide basic necessities, funding for education; all gutted for a big fat tax break to 1%ers.

      • David, the ranks of the 1% is comprised of about a 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans. It is counterintuitive to say that conservative free market Republicans believe the way they do simply because they are all greedy demons looking for a few extra dollars. For what? It’s not like they don’t have plenty already. Their blind belief in free market solutions is their Achilles heel. But, Democrats have their own Achilles heel. Blind belief that simple solutions like raising minimum wage or free college for all will reduce social and economic inequities for example.

        So far, the solutions both sides advocate are ineffective at best. 19th and 20th century solutions to 21st Century problems. We need a new paradigm.

        • JohnGreenberg

          “the ranks of the 1% is comprised of about a 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans.” Any evidence for that? I’d love to see it.

          • Fair question. There’s not a great deal of solid statistics on the matter and no researchers seem willing to plant a stake too firmly in the ground since most of the data is self-reported.

            An oft quoted statistic is from 2011 gallup poll. Here’s a relevant link from a 2014 Economist article describing the statistic. “Politically, Gallup polls find that the 1% are more likely than the 99% to identify themselves as Republicans (33% to 28%) and less likely to be Democrats (26% to 33%).”

            So, my recollection was off slightly. Mea Culpa. Nonetheless, democrats and republicans self-report in roughly equal percentages with republican’s having a marginal lead. Neither is as large as the remainder that self-reports as something other than democrat or republican.

            More to the point of my original thought is this 2016 Washington Post article entitled “Democrats are gay, Republicans are rich: Our stereotypes of political parties are amazingly wrong”.


            As a species, we are encumbered with a tendency to oversimplify compartmentalize and demonize. None of which is helpful in finding real solutions to problems.

    • Dave Bellini

      If Republicans got their way there would be no Medicare or social security. It’s a anathema to them. They want Herbert Hoover. Cutting off healthcare and cutting food and duel assistance can’t be spun into anything than what it is. Turn your heads away so you don’t see.

      • Jon Corrigan

        You should check the record on Social Security – the real facts: in the House 35 Dems voted No or didn’t vote, while only 21 Reps voted No or didn’t vote.

        • Robert Lehmert


          • Jon Corrigan

            Why don’t you try the Social Security website, like I did. The vote totals are in a table under ‘history’ and ‘tally’.

  • Edward Letourneau

    The upside of these cuts, if they happen, will be to make Vermont think and act on allowing more economic development, returning to the culture of self-reliance, and best of all forcing the state to eliminate many needless regulation that raise the cost of living here. The liberals are going to have to learn how to think creatively which is very good start for saving this state from itself.

    • Matthew Davis

      How do explain the fact that many “liberal” and progressive states and regions actually generate more revenue to support “conservative” states and regions? For instance, New Jersey pays considerably more to the federal govt. than say Louisiana or Mississippi. However, the latter states receive considerably more than New Jersey. Kind of ironic that red states support representatives that are the most likely to argue for small govt. and ending “welfare” programs. Right?

      • Edward Letourneau

        Vermont is a progressive state that doesn’t generate enough revenue to support itself. So your theory is flawed.

        • Matthew Davis

          It’s no theory…just an observation that many progressive states actually generate more than conservative states. The suggestion that VT is “progressive” is not totally accurate. Parts of VT are progressive, while other parts are extremely conservative. In fact, in the more progressive areas the standard of living tends to be higher than in conservative areas….

          • Steve Baker

            Those progressive areas are full of overpaid collage professors Admin, and coaches. Not to mention the grand total of State Employees in those areas.

          • David Bell

            Because they are wealthy, thought they would be wealthier if red states stopped mooching off of them.

          • Edward Letourneau

            that might be because taxes form the conservative areas are supporting the progressive areas.

  • Margaret Maclean

    Trump isn’t the only one promoting policy that takes aim at rural areas and the poor. Our own legislature is doing the same, albeit covering their tracks with lofty language like ” increased opportunity” and ” economies of scale”.

    Take Act 46 which is designed to close community schools and bus students to larger regional schools, disconnecting schools from communities in rural areas and hollowing out rural communities in the process. Condemning rural kids to long bus rides regardless of evidence which shows that in Vermont our smaller schools have higher than average poverty rates amongst children and that long bus rides contribute to less participation in all those academic and after school opportunities and less parental involvement, negatively impacting student performance.

  • Tim Vincent

    America has been at “war” against poverty since 1965 and based on federal spending 52 years later, poverty won.
    Think it’s about time some of this massive bloat was examined for it’s “usefulness?”

    • Dave Bellini

      “Let them eat cake…!!!!”. The GOP motto.

      • Tim Vincent

        Once in a while I see EBT users at the supermarket.
        They’re not eating badly, including cake.
        EBT for the food, cash for the beer and cigarettes.
        13% of the US populaiton is on foodstamps.
        You think that more is a good thing?

        • Sara Vaclavik

          To the extent that children, seniors, and the disabled are not going hungry or even starving, yes. Unless you want to take issue with the statistic, the article advises that “75 percent of [SNAP beneficiaries] were either children, elderly or disabled.” Regardless of what you might see at your local grocery store — the data indicate that the majority of beneficiaries of the SNAP program are members in vulnerable populations — who, as part of their eligibility, need to be under a certain level of income — and it seems cruel to want to punish the majority because of a minority’s behavior or (more likely) because of the public’s apparently and generously misguided assumptions about the character of SNAP beneficiaries as a whole. Feel free to gesture towards those whom you see at your local grocery store who you may “know” are just sitting around all day collecting “welfare” and “disability” checks and getting something for nothing, draining the system. Or perhaps take a moment to consider how you might feel living in a country where people who are unable to provide for themselves — because they are young, disabled, or elderly — have to struggle more than they already do to afford something as basic as food because of substantial cuts to this safety net program.

          • Tim Vincent

            That’s an interesting point.
            Why are children on SNAP?
            Can’t/won’t the parents feed them?
            If you can’t afford children . DON’T have them.
            Again, society (adults who don’t make significant bad decisions) gets the tab for the bozos whose lives are rolling car wrecks.

          • David Bell

            “Why are children on SNAP?”

            Typically because their parents have fallen on hard times.

            “If you can’t afford children . DON’T have them.”

            And if you could afford children then THINGS GOT WORSE?

      • Steve Baker

        That’s an outstanding reply, One that is truly worthy of your position.

      • Edward Letourneau

        Actually in states where they have imposed a work requirement on able-bodied childless individuals, they have found that 3/4 of them either get a job or drop out of food stamp programs. — So there is some laziness going around, and we are not seeing reports of people starving to death.

        • David Bell


          • Jon Corrigan
          • David Bell

            Your source does not list any data, overall changes in the program from month to month… really any of the context anyone would need to evaluate this claim.

          • Edward Letourneau

            Its part of the federal law that was relaxed under Obama. Now its back in force and able-bodied childless individuals have to either do volunteer work or get a job to get food stamps. States, including Vermont have found that most of them drop off the food stamp rolls instead.

          • David Bell

            “Its part of the federal law that was relaxed under Obama.”

            That is false. This narrative was created after Obama permitted states to set standards outside federal guidelines, something right wingers claim to be in favor of.

            Again, any evidence for the rest of your claims?

          • Edward Letourneau

            Read the news. there are stories about in Georgia and OK, for two and my friends who work for Vt DET tell me they have found the same thing here.

          • David Bell

            And there are stories that Elvis was sited in Miami.

            Vague claims that someone somewhere said so is not credible evidence.

  • Gary Dickinson

    I would think this budget would be celebrated by Montpelier. The faster that the unsightly poor and blue collar workers leave for greener pastures, the faster the state can continue to be transformed into a private resort park for the rich.

    • Rich Lachapelle

      The current majority in Montpelier requires large numbers of needy individuals for their votes and maintains a semblance of the middle class for tax revenue. Programs such as LIHEAP could probably be better administered locally or statewide anyhow, and with much less wasteful bureaucracy and fraud. The federal budget is not a money tree.

  • rosemariejackowski

    Maybe we need to take notice of the symmetry. Trump wants a 54 BILLION decrease in ‘certain’ spending, and a 54 BILLION increase in the Offence Budget.
    As a nation, we need to decide whether killing people is more important than feeding them.

    • Peter Chick

      I did not know of the “offense budget”.

    • wendywilton

      That’s why we have elections. He is doing as he promised he would do. The jig is up and the debt is unsustainable. Trump is doing the right thing for the future of the nation by reducing the rate of growth in welfare programs.

      • David Bell

        “The jig is up and the debt is unsustainable.”

        Then why is he piling on more debt in the form of tax cuts to the richest of the rich?

        “Trump is doing the right thing for the future of the nation by reducing the rate of growth in welfare programs.”

        So, gutting programs for the poor to shovel more money into the hands of the rich is good for the nation?

  • Chet Greenwood

    The title should read” Trump takes aim at the uncontrolled spending in Washington.”
    Bush increased the deficit by $3.293 trillion and Obama compounded the spending by adding another $6.575 trillion.
    Killing, starving, shutting off their heat or tossing old people (and I am one of them) over the cliff is not in the budget. Helping people in need is in the budget. Helping those who want, but do not need, is also in the plan to get them back to work.
    Defense spending works like infrastructure spending- it creates good paying jobs and both help the country.

    • bob Zeliff

      Your statement about the debt is in correct. You neglect to credit the decisions that are the orginins of the debt but in correctly count the years when it built up.

      In 2001 Bush/Republicans gave a tax cut to the 2% of approximately $200 B/yr, this tax cut is still largely intact. 16year by $200B equal $3.2 Trillion

      At a similar time remember Bush/Cheny taking the cost of the Iraq war “off the books” not raising taxes to pay for it. That was also about $200B / yr bit mitigated by sequestration during Obama so again 16 year by $200B equals a bit less than $3 trillion due to the sequestration.

      So Republican policies ADDED $6Trillion to the debt.

      Obama did add just over $1 Trillion for extended bail out, un employment and the social safety net costs to bail us our of the Bush/Republican finance collapse / and resulting recession.

      Please pay attention to fact….over the last 40 years most of our debt has been to due to Republican policies….tax reductions for the wealth and WAR

      • Chet Greenwood

        I appreciate the history lesson even though I would challenge some of your “facts” but you missed the point – our debt is unsustainable and someone has to take the lead to get it under control.
        This is Trump’s first budget attempt and it will look somewhat different when the Legislature gets through with it.

        • bob Zeliff

          Please pay attention to what Ryan is doing. Last December he added $30B a year of tax cuts…all to debt.

          Look at theRepublican passed Health Care bill, it strip health care from millions to give a corresponding Tax cut to the top 2% (Trump et al) it does NOT reduce the deficit! Look up the first page of the Scoring report! See for your self.

          Trumps budget has huge false assumptions. The biggest is his assumption that the US will grow by 3%…all his spending a tax cuts are based on this….so if his budget passed it will make the deficit bigger….but again the wealth 2% will enjoy huge tax cuts.

          Please take the time to dig it to what is going on.

          It is truly shocking

          And is NOT what Trump and Ryan are telling you.

  • Dan DeCoteau

    Posters like Rama, Walter and David make disparaging remarks about the president and have been disrespectful. When I answer them my comments are censored. This is not a full blown left wing site but the monitors sure lean that way in the selection of comments they allow to be posted. How many others have been shut out of the conversation?

    • Michael Dougherty

      Hi Dan – respectfully, both your comments deleted from this thread disparaged the commenters you were responding to rather than offering a response to the article’s content. If you’ll refrain from directing your comments at other posters, we’ll be happy to have your thoughts in the mix.

    • Steve Baker

      I agree Dan

  • Elise Eaton

    What relevance is there in pointing fingers at when and under whom, the country’s debt expanded? It’s OLD news. Get the microscopes out to inspect the “over abundance” of social programs (I’m being PC.) Get people moving, train them to do something. How about a mandatory # of volunteer hours must be given to one’s community to earn help? The entitlement paradigm is shifting and it’s long overdue in my view.

    • David Bell

      “How about a mandatory # of volunteer hours must be given to one’s community to earn help?”

      Yeah, people working long hours for minimum wage need to be ordered to spend all their free time cleaning garbage from the side of the road. If you’re disabled, let’s double those hours!

      The “entitlement paradigm” is largely angry right wingers who think they are owed work from people who have next to nothing.

  • Keith Stern

    The federal debt is unsustainable as well as Vermont’s tax and spend mentality. If our elected officials both federally and statewide were doing what voters elected them to do we wouldn’t have this issue ongoing. There are ways to cut spending without negatively affecting anyone but unfortunately it requires doing some hard work and being creative. As long as voters settle for those who complain against the opposition party and bring no practical ideas to the table we will continue to face these same issues.

  • wendywilton

    Federal policies of he past few years have enabled blue states like VT to keep on growing welfare and Medicaid and avoid enacting pro-economic growth strategies. In my opinion welfare and state dependency is counter productive to a vibrant society (except those who truly cannot work, or need help temporarily).
    I don’t disagree that income inequality is a big issue, however Bernie’s vision of an America like Venezuela is not an answer. Those who need to have greater incomes also need better skills or a willingness to increase or change skills. If the commenters here want to really know more about poverty in America read “Hillbillly Elegy” by JD Vance. I just finished it. A must read. The state legislature and everyone in AHS should read it as a professional development requirement.

    • David Bell

      “I don’t disagree that income inequality is a big issue, however Bernie’s vision of an America like Venezuela is not an answer.”

      Please cite where Bernie said that.

      • Anne L Hilliard

        I wish somebody would explain what “income inequality” really is. Is it that a doctor makes more than me and that’s not fair? Is it that I have an 8th grade education and expect to receive a salary as somebody with a college degree receives? Or it is it that I am on welfare and expect to have all the bennies that the working people, who also pay my welfare check, receive? Just what is ‘income inequality’?

  • Robert Lehmert

    The largest increases in the national debt took place after Ronald Reagan overdid tax cuts (and stuck the economic damage on G.H.W. Bush and Clinton) and G.W. Bush, who overdid tax cuts on the theory that “job creators” would materialize. That, plus 2 off-the-books wars, plus Homeland Security, plus a new Medicare prescription plan, plus the collapse of the US economy in 2007-2008.

    You have no obligation to pay off the “national debt”. No one does. We have an obligation to keep the country solvent, which means paying the interest as it falls due. That is not particularly burdensome for the US as long as its credit rating remains high. Trump’s proposed “budget” contains massive tax cuts for the ultra-rich ($52 billion for the Walton family alone) and double counts $2 trillion in tax cuts as through they are revenue. Mulveny’s budget is an amatuer proposal containing a basket of mathematical errors, which serve to gloss over a huge projected increase in the Federal Deficit. It is “dead of arrival” according to Paul Ryan and others required to actually implement it.

    What Ryan envisions is a scenario involving huge tax cuts for the wealthy to de-fund Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Before you all cheer for that, allow me to remind you that Social Security pays benefits to:

    — 34.7 million retired workers
    — 8.2 million disabled workers
    — 4.4 million widows and widowers
    — 2.5 million spouses
    — 1 million adults disabled since childhood
    — 3.4 million children
    — For 1 in 5 retirees, Social Security is their ONLY source of income.
    — For 1 in 3 retirees, Social Security is at least 90 percent of their retirement income.
    — For 2 in 3 retirees, Social Security is more than 50 percent of their retirement income.

    For many families (millions) Medicaid is the program which provides care for aging parents and disabled adults and children requiring nursing and long-term care.

    Before we get all dogmatic, we might want to think over the practical implications of that.

  • Carl Ashley

    I am glad that we have providing coverage of the news in our region. We have been pleased to support VTDigger, and will continue. Here are a few comments about the article which I hope will be helpful to the article author and VTDigger.
    1. Although there is expansive coverage of the President’s budget proposal’s impacts and reactions from agency representatives, the heavy dependence on these resources is a bit weak due to a strong potential for bias. Could an article such as this go a little deeper? For example, is there a high-level of fraudulence occurring in the LIHEAP, and if so how is this being address to reduce or eliminate fraud.
    2. The article title of “Trump takes aim at rural areas and poor…” may be popular with many readers, but is interpretive and not particularly supported by the article. Since VTDigger is supportive of healthy/respectful debate a more informative title with a balance view would work better.

    Praises to VTDigger for the energy and scope of their overall coverage. Thank you.