Gov. Charlie Baker said he finds cause for concern with many of the proposed cuts in President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint released Thursday, including an “alarming” reduction in federal research spending that he cast as a more immediate concern for Massachusetts than the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Trump released a $1.1 trillion spending blueprint for the country on Thursday that increases federal spending on defense, border security, law enforcement and school choice initiatives, but makes deep cuts to research spending, environmental protection and affordable housing.
The White House defended the blueprint as a budget that would advance safety and security for all citizens without adding to the national debt, but the details quickly fostered consternation among state and local officials.
Many of the proposals are likely to be reworked by Congress.
“The first thing I saw was the big cut to the NIH, the National Institutes of Health. The National Institutes of Health have always been, for the most part, a bipartisan initiative,” Baker said during his monthly radio appearance on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio.”
The Trump budget for the fiscal year that starts in October would reduce NIH funding by $5.8 billion to $25.9 billion, a 22 percent reduction that the administration said would include a major reorganization, reduced administrative costs and a refocusing of resources on “highest priority research.”
Baker said the NIH is a “key driver to all sort of discovery” that helps fuel academic research in Massachusetts and in the biopharmaceutical, medical device and other industries.
“It’s not just bad for Massachusetts, it’s bad for the country,” Baker said, calling the NIH proposal “particularly alarming.” He said he planned to reach out to the state’s Congressional delegation and governors of other states with strong links to the NIH to formulate a strategy.
Trump’s budget would also eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Community Services Block Grant program to achieve a savings of $4.2 billion.
“There are a lot of things in this that concern me,” Baker said, though he added that he’s well aware that Congress, and not the White House will have the final say on spending. “It’s what we might call a suggestion. It’s like the governor’s budget,” Baker said.
Though the governor has also expressed reservations over the House GOP’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Baker said most of the funding changes from ACA repeal would not hit Massachusetts until 2019 or 2020, while an on-time federal budget would kick in starting in October.
Baker said the Congressional Budget Office, which predicted that as many as 24 million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026 under the House plan, raised “serious and legitimate concerns” with the bill, and he noted that seven Senate Republicans have already said they won’t support the bill as it stands, possibly dooming its chances. CBO also projected the bill would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the coming decade, with most of the savings associated with reductions in Medicaid outlays and the elimination of ACA subsidies for nongroup health insurance.
“There’s a long way to go in this debate and we should not just roll over,” Baker said.