Donald Trump's new budget cuts target his own blue-collar supporters

Harriet Agerholm
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign supporting coal during a rally at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: Getty

Donald Trump’s first budget since taking office made-good on his promise to boost military funding while slashing domestic costs — but not only has the financial plan gone after traditional conservative targets, it has cut programmes benefitting the blue-collar Americans who voted for Mr Trump in November.

The closure of a regional airport could force residents of a small town in upper Michigan to drive eight hours to catch a flight. The elimination of funding to keep the Great Lakes clean could hurt business at a waterside Ohio boating club. Cuts to the nation's flood insurance program could mean greater losses after a storm for homeowners on Florida's Gulf Coast.

And among the losers of the 2018 budget proposal, submitted by the White House, are the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the US Economic Development Administration. Both agencies work to create jobs in areas such as West Virginia and Kentucky to help them recover from the decline of the coal industry.

Last year the Congress approved a record budget of $146m (£118m) for the ARC to improve outcomes in areas disaffected by the decline of coal. The agency invested $73m (£59) in 89 projects – including teaching coal miners how to code – across 236 counties.

“Rural America stepped up to the plate behind the President in his last election, and we're wholeheartedly behind him,” Republican chairman of the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee in Alabama Robert Aderholt said.

But he added that he was concerned about cuts that would hurt several rural development programmes.

“It doesn't really reflect President Trump's support for rural communities,” he said.

Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, who represents eastern Kentucky's coal counties, echoed the comments, telling Reuters he would fight against the cuts to the ARC.

“It's true that the president won his election in rural country. I would really like to see him climb aboard the ARC vehicle as a way to help us help ourselves,“ Mr Rogers said.

Four hundred of the 420 counties ARC operates in voted for Mr Trump in the Presidential election.

Trump administration officials have insisted the proposal supports a desire to give states more flexibility and protects taxpayers from seeing their dollars wasted.

“You're only focusing on half of the equation, right?” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said when asked about the cuts

“You're focusing on recipients of the money. We're trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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