LITTLE ROCK — Some members of Arkansas’ all-Republican congressional delegation voiced concerns Tuesday about the $4.1 trillion proposed budget President Donald Trump unveiled Tuesday.
Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro praised some aspects of the proposal, saying in a statement that it “finally addresses our growing national debt while still prioritizing our armed forces,” but expressed concern about the proposed elimination of funding for several U.S. Department of Agriculture programs.
“The severe cuts to USDA programs don’t fully consider the current state of rural economies and the significant savings already generated by the last farm bill,” Crawford said.
“As the House of Representatives builds upon the administration’s budget blueprint, I will work with my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee to advocate for producers and other programs vitally important to rural economies and a safe, reliable food source in the United States,” he said.
Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers said in an email, “The budget signals a desire to make needed reforms to major programs like SNAP and Medicaid, but ignores the primary drivers of the deficit and debt — runaway entitlement programs. Any attempt to balance the books of the federal government without addressing entitlement reform is unrealistic. Plus, banking on a sustained growth rate of 3 percent in the economy is dangerous assumption.”
Other members of the delegation chose to emphasize that the budget process is only at the beginning rather than stating an opinion of the president’s proposal.
“President Trump’s budget is a blueprint for the administration’s priorities,” Sen. John Boozman said in an email. “This is only the beginning of the process. Congress has the power of the purse. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Budget and Appropriations Committees to confront our national debt and evaluate our priorities to ensure we are meeting the needs of our country and spending tax dollars responsibly.”
Rep. French Hill of Little Rock said in a statement, “Arkansans and people across the country have made it clear they want Congress and our president to work together to produce a balanced budget.
“While this proposal provides some guidance on how the president wants to accomplish this, it is ultimately Congress that decides the federal spending priorities,” Hill said. “As we work through the budget process in the House, I remain committed to limited government that spurs innovation and economic growth, aids the most vulnerable parts of our population, and, most importantly, strengthens our national security.”
Spokespeople for Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs said Tuesday that Cotton and Westerman were still reviewing the president’s proposed budget plan.
The state Democratic Party issued a statement Tuesday blasting the budget proposal for, among other things, cutting $600 billion in Medicaid funding over 10 years, eliminating student loan subsidies, cutting $95 billion in highway funding and eliminating a crop insurance program.
“The Republicans are going after a majority of Arkansans with this proposal,” state Democratic Party Chairman and state Rep. Michael John Gray of Augusta said. “Our farmers rely on crop insurance programs, like the one that’s being axed by this proposal. In a time when the agricultural economy is already suffering, further cuts will do nothing but drive farmers further into bankruptcy. Those in agriculture, our No. 1 industry, will feel these cuts tremendously.”
Gray said that despite the cuts, the proposed budget plan would add $7.2 trillion to the national deficit according to the independent Tax Policy Center.
“This budget really shows Republicans’ priorities are with big corporations and not the people. We must prioritize our farmers, our families, our students, and our kids in this state, and this Republican proposal does the opposite,” he said.