Montana groups, governor blast Trump’s budget as “destructive”

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

President Donald Trump on Tuesday asked lawmakers to slash $3.6 trillion in government spending over the next 10 years, a proposal that targets health care and food assistance programs for the poor while boosting military spending and building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The budget was quickly criticized by a handful of Montana groups expressing concerns over its impact to the state, from health care to outdoor recreation.

The Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said the proposal would cut nearly 11 percent from the Interior Department and bring an 84 percent reduction to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“The administration’s budget starves our public lands of critical funding,” said Land Tawney, the organization’s president and CEO. “Not only would (the cuts) profoundly diminish our lands and waters, fish and wildlife habitat, and outdoor opportunities, they also would hobble America’s potent outdoors economy – currently $887 billion strong, sustainable and growing.”

The biggest savings in Trump’s budget would come from cuts to the Medicaid program for the poor, which was included as part of a Republican health care bill recently passed by the House of Representatives.

Trump wants lawmakers to cut more than $800 billion from the program, according to Reuters, and more than $192 billion from food stamps over a decade. That and other elements of the proposal was blasted Tuesday by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

“Ripping essential services away from thousands of hard-working Montana families and millions of Americans in order to give tax breaks to millionaires and corporations is unacceptable and un-American,” said Bullock. “This budget would destroy investments in jobs, education, infrastructure and health care, and have devastating impacts on rural states like Montana.”

Under the plan, new spending includes a $1.6 billion down payment to begin building a wall along the border with Mexico. It would also sell half of the nation’s emergency oil stockpile.

Trump is also seeking $52 billion more for the Pentagon as part of an overall increase in defense spending. At the same time, the president would reduce nearly a third of funding for diplomacy and foreign aid, including global health and food aid, peacekeeping, and other forms of non-military foreign involvement.

“This budget stands in stark contrast to the commitments the president made during his campaign to help those left behind by today’s economy,” said Tara Jensen of the Montana Budget and Policy Center. “It would also shift significant costs to Montana at a time when our state is already struggling to meet needs for higher education, senior and disability services, and infrastructure that Montanans rely on.”

Reuters also contributed to this story.