May 23, 2017

Trump budget’s Medicaid, SNAP cuts would have big impact on NM

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Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump at Arizona rally in March, 2016.Flickr/cc

Large cuts to safety-net programs will have a large impact on New Mexico, which is near the top of the nation in those on Medicaid and who receive food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Over the next ten years, the proposed Trump budget would cut Medicaid spending by $610 billion and SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, by $193 billion. These cuts would come in addition to those  from the American Health Care Act. The president has also proposed reducing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, by $5.8 billion over ten years.

How agencies will exact the cuts to programs, and what their impacts on states might be, is still unclear. But the programs, all aimed at aiding the poor in the country, will likely have a large effect on states like New Mexico with high levels of poverty.

James Jimenez, the executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the cuts would “only make hunger worse” and cited the safety-net programs.

“The Trump budget makes deep cuts to programs that benefit New Mexico’s families with children, elderly, people with disabilities, and rural communities,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “The biggest cuts would be to Medicaid, which provides health insurance to more than half of New Mexico’s children.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, called the proposed budget “a disturbing statement of President Trump’s dangerous and cruel priorities” in a statement.

“President Trump’s budget would cannibalize programs that help lower-income and middle-class families to give the richest Americans a huge tax cut and pay for a border wall that even Republicans oppose,” Udall said.

He also criticized cuts to tribal programs and said he was “concerned that it would violate the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations to provide even basic health, education, public safety and other core services to American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.“

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, also a Democrat, was also highly critical of the budget.

“President Trump’s budget would hit New Mexico especially hard by slashing Medicaid, cutting economic development for rural communities, and restricting access to affordable food for low-income families,” Heinrich said.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, while saying he did not agree with the entire plan, praised the budget proposal.

“It is refreshing to see a President diligently attempt to provide our nation with a balanced and sustainable budget,” the New Mexico delegation’s lone Republican said. “While nowhere near perfect or the final product that will be crafted by Congress, President Trump’s proposal forces a much needed conversation on our nation’s spending priorities.”

Pearce also praised the “support Los Alamos National Lab, Sandia National Lab, and WIPP.”

SNAP, Medicaid in NM

SNAP cuts could take place  through suspending employment waivers, which apply in areas with high unemployment rates. New Mexico has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

According to the latest federal data released earlier this month, 459,657 New Mexicans received SNAP benefits in February of this year. That is down by nearly 7,000 from the previous February.

Jimenez said the proposed SNAP cuts would cost New Mexico $1.2 billion over the next ten years.

The Kaiser Family Foundation tracks Medicaid enrollment by state and found New Mexico has a total Medicaid/CHIP Enrollment of 787,110 as of March of 2017. By contrast, 457,678 New Mexicans were enrolled in the programs ah ead of the Affordable Care Act.

While the budget itself will not become law, just as President Barack Obama’s budgets did not become law, it shows what the priorities of the Trump administration are and is essentially his administration’s wish list.

Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said before the budget’s release Tuesday that they would largely ignore the document.

Robert Greenstein at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal organization, called it “the most radical, Robin-Hood-in-reverse budget that any modern President has ever proposed.”

Greenstein cites the cuts to Medicaid, SNAP and Supplemental Security Income as well as large tax cut proposals, largely aimed at the highest-earners.

The cuts, are in an effort to offset the loss in revenue from these tax cuts and increased military spending Trump is pushing for.

Environmental cuts

The budget also calls for $1.6 billion in funds for a border wall, which Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife called “a non-starter.”

“It’s a misuse of funding that should instead be used for programs that keep our air and water clean and protect our wildlife and wild places. President Trump’s dirty budget is a sellout of our nation’s natural heritage.”

The $1.6 billion is a fraction of the estimated cost of the controversial wall.

The Trump budget would also cut 31 percent from the Environmental Protection Agency budget, including all funding for environmental justice initiatives.

The Interior Department would see a 10.9 percent cut, even as Trump’s administration announced a “review” of many national monuments, including two in New Mexico.

The budget also appears to rely on some dubious accounting related to the proposed tax cuts.

From the Wall Street Journal:

In his budget proposal Tuesday, Mr. Trump estimates his economic policies, including the tax plan, will be more than revenue neutral. The budget estimates it will generate an extra $2.1 trillion in revenue and help to balance the budget by 2027.

That appears to double count the benefits of economic growth: Once to offset the effects of lower tax rates and a second time to help close the budget deficit.

When asked about the double-counting, Trump’s Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the document was preliminary and would be refined.

The budget also relies on 3 percent economic growth, much higher than the post-recession average.

Much of the media focus on the cuts has been to cuts that will impact states that voted for Trump, especially in the Rust Belt.

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