By TAYLOR STUCK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s representatives in the nation’s capital have concerns on how cuts in President Donald Trump’s newly released budget proposal for the coming year could affect West Virginians.
“Look at all the categories that get hit the hardest: WIC, Medicaid (which is annihilated), the Appalachian Regional Commission — you name it, we get hit because so much of this affects every part of our state,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Tuesday in a call with West Virginia reporters.
The $1.4 trillion spending plan sent to Congress on Tuesday relies on faster economic growth and steep cuts in a range of support programs for low-income individuals while boosting military spending to balance the government’s books over the next decade.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Evan Jenkins, who represents the Huntington area, also expressed reservations about Trump’s spending plan for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. The two Republicans said some of the priorities spelled out in the budget proposal would hurt West Virginia residents.
“It’s important to remember this is the president’s opinion on where government spending should be,” Capito said. “Now it comes to Congress and the Appropriations Committee for us to put our priorities first. You will see a lot of changes, certainly in drug abuse and mental health. We just bumped up the funding for substance abuse and I am certainly going to work hard to continue that.”
Jenkins, like Manchin, was critical of cuts to Medicaid and the food stamp program, as well as sharp reductions to the Appalachian Regional Commission and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
“We need to do more to attract new industries to our coalfields and invest in our infrastructure, and these two programs have a track record of success in West Virginia,” Jenkins said in a news release. “As our state struggles to recover from eight years of devastating economic policies, we cannot make harsh cuts to these programs while our families are getting back on their feet.”
Manchin spelled out in detail areas where West Virginians would suffer under Trump’s proposal.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would be cut by 20 percent in 2018, or $5.8 billion over 10 years. In 2015, CHIP served 34,729 West Virginia children.
The budget also cuts programs for low-income families. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be cut by $191 billion over 10 years. SNAP supports 1 in 5 West Virginians.
The Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) would see a $1.2 billion reduction in its budget, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) will have a $21 billion reduction.
At the same time, the budget would tighten access to the Social Security disability program, counting $48 billion in savings from testing “new approaches to increase labor participation.” Disability insurance would be cut by $72 billion.
Roughly 25 percent of West Virginians receive Social Security benefits.
The budget completely cuts the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which serves more than 90,000 West Virginia households, and the Meals on Wheels program, which serves more than 8,000 West Virginia seniors each week.
The National Office of Drug Control Policy is not completely eliminated, though it does face some small cuts. It was originally thought the office would be eliminated entirely.
Still, the Drug Free Communities program faces a $3 million cut and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program will see a $6 million cut, along with cuts to treatment grants for states and a $400 million cut to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency.
The Appalachian Regional Commission would see its budget reduced from $146 million to $27 million. The ARC funds projects such as regional development and planning programs and grants to help small towns in depressed counties. Similarly, the Economic Development Administration would go from $251 million to $30 million.
Both programs support West Virginia towns and projects such as the Coalfield Development Corp., Jenkins said.
Manchin, Capito and Jenkins all promised to fight for the priorities of West Virginians.
The proposal projects that this year’s deficit will rise to $603 billion, up from the actual deficit of $585 billion last year.