Congress appears poised to reject a wide range of cuts to federal programs proposed by President Trump that would have serious consequences across Maine, disrupting scientific research and social services, affecting everyone from the elderly and unemployed to those who rely on the sea to earn their living.

When Trump released his proposed budget in March, it was subjected to withering bipartisan condemnation from Maine’s congressional delegation, with Republican Sen. Susan Collins promising it would be “subject to “significant revision” by Congress. Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree declared it “dead on arrival.”

That appears to be exactly what is happening.

Trump’s budget proposed stripping federal dollars from programs that provide heating oil to low-income Mainers, legal aid to indigent citizens and funding for services that help the homeless. It would stop federal funds from flowing to Maine Public’s television and radio outlets, the University of Maine’s Sea Grant research program and research efforts at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, which could end up closing. Funds that Maine towns and cities use to clean up contaminated industrial sites so they can be redeveloped would be slashed, and programs that help abate radon in drinking water, lead paint in old buildings, and pollution on Maine beaches would be eliminated altogether.

But the omnibus appropriations bill passed Thursday by the House of Representatives rejects all of those proposals, restoring most or all funding for most of these programs and in some cases raising it.

Rep. Chellie Pingree

“With the president’s budget, it was as if they took a meat ax to every program whether they understood its value or not so they could find the money to do tax cuts or a border wall,” says Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st District and sits on the House Appropriations Committee. “But at Appropriations, these aren’t partisan programs. There are just as many Republicans as Democrats who care about things like Meals on Wheels or community block grants or weather satellites and were interested in getting them back into the budget.”


On the Senate side, negotiators will likely bring appropriations reports passed by various committees to talks with their House counterparts to come up with a final deal. Like the House bill, those committee reports also retain most or all funding for the programs Trump had proposed eliminating or severely cutting back. And because the budget is subject to a filibuster in the Senate, Republican leaders will have to keep at least a few Democrats on board to secure final passage.

This means proponents of imperiled programs and institutions like Low Income Home Energy Assistance, Sea Grant, the Wells Reserve, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, brownfield and Community Development Block Grants to towns can rest a little easier. Workers whose jobs depend on the Pentagon’s F-35 program – repeatedly criticized by Trump during the campaign and transition – also have reason for optimism.

Theoretically, anything could happen during negotiations among the House, Senate and White House to pass a final budget in December, when the current continuing resolution extending funding of the federal government expires. But as a practical matter, the programs’ funding will likely be retained, according to former Appropriations staffer and lobbyist Mark Harkins.

“In general, Congress likes inertia, and 95 percent of appropriations bills are going to be what you saw the year before because it’s easier and because they don’t have the time and staff to make major changes on a line-by-line basis,” says Harkins, now a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute. “Unless there’s a real concerted effort on somebody’s part to change a particular line item, inertia is going to win.”

The $1.2 trillion House bill cuts funding for many departments from current spending levels, but above Trump’s proposals. Funding for the State Department and foreign operations receive a drastic 17 percent cut, while the Pentagon, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs see increases. It passed 211-198, with only one Democrat in favor and 14 members of the Republican’s libertarian-minded Freedom Caucus opposed.

The current appropriations bills also represent a rebuke of the president by the Republican-controlled House and Senate. “I feel good about the fact that there was a bipartisan agreement in Congress that didn’t just accept what was put in front of us,” Pingree said Friday. “The president’s budget seemed ill-informed and bureaucratic.”


A spokesman for Sen. Angus King, Jack Flaherty, said via email the senator was encouraged by Senate appropriators’ effort to find bipartisan solutions, “and is hopeful we can continue working towards common-sense agreements that responsibly allocate federal resources and ensure continued support for hardworking people in Maine and across the country.”

Similarly, Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark wrote that the senator was pleased that eight of 12 funding bills had passed the Senate Appropriations Committee — which she serves on — “with either unanimous or overwhelmingly bipartisan support.”

Senator Collins looks forward to continuing to work with her colleagues to support programs that benefit Mainers and all Americans,” Clark added.

The president’s budget was a dead letter, says Harkins. “When the appropriators saw the president’s budget for fiscal year 2018 they essentially threw it over their shoulder,” he says. “What they will say to the White House going forward is, ‘What are the top 20 things you want changed?'”

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican who represents the 2nd District, declined to comment directly on the House budget he voted for. His spokesman, Brendan Conley, would only say that he had “voted on the House bill, one step in a long process, and looks forward to seeing what comes back from the Senate.” In August, Poliquin told supporters he avoided speaking to the press about his positions for fear of losing his seat.

The Maine Sunday Telegram analyzed the House bill and the Senate committee reports and compared their appropriations for key programs the president had slated for reduction or elimination. Here’s some of what we found:



What it does: provides heating assistance to about 45,000 Mainers

Trump proposal: eliminates the $3.4 billion program

House budget: $3.4 billion

Senate budget: $3.4 billion



What it does: funds the delivery of meals to the elderly and disabled

Trump proposal: initially appeared to eliminate program but ultimately proposed a $1.4 million cut to $226 million

House budget: $227 million

Senate budget: $227 million


What it does: represents the bulk of funding for Pine Tree Legal Assistance, which helps 4,500 poor Mainers bring their grievances to court


Trump proposal: eliminates the $385 million program

House budget: $300 million

Senate budget: $385 million


What it does: gives bulk of funding for the University of Maine’s $1.8 million Sea Grant program, which provides technical support to Maine’s marine industries and helped found the Fisherman’s Forum, Portland Fish Exchange, UMaine Lobster Institute

Trump proposal: eliminates the $65 million program


House budget: $65 million

Senate budget: $67 million.


What it does: provides most funding for operation and research at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm and New Hampshire’s Great Bay National Estuarine Reserve

Trump proposal: eliminates the $23.5 million program

House budget: $23.5 million


Senate budget: $25 million


What it does: provides millions in funding to Maine towns and cities to address the needs of homeless people and improve housing and economic opportunities in low-income neighborhoods

Trump proposal: eliminates the $3 billion program

House budget: $2.9 billion

Senate budget: $3 billion



What they do: provides revolving loans that have helped clean up numerous Maine properties so they could be redeveloped, including the former trash-to-energy plant in Biddeford, the Old Town Canoe factory in Old Town and the T.W. Dick complex in Gardiner

Trump proposal: cuts the $90 million program by 31 percent

House budget: $90 million

Senate budget: $80 million



What they do: provide funds to mitigate radon in Maine buildings

Trump proposal: eliminates $8 million

House budget: $8 million

Senate budget: $8 million


What they do: provide most funding to Casco Bay Partnership, which supports funds environmental and ocean acidification monitoring sites in the bay


Trump proposal: eliminates $20.5 million program

House budget: $18.3 million

Senate budget: $27 million


What they do: funds the Maine Healthy Beaches program, the only beach water quality monitoring in the state

Trump proposal: eliminates $9.5 million program


House budget: unclear, but substantially increases funding for water quality grants overall

Senate budget: $9.5 million


What it does: provides Maine Public $1.7 million annually, or 14 percent of its budget

Trump proposal: eliminates $495 million program

House budget: $445 million


Senate budget: $445 million


What they do: together the two entities provided $2.8 million in grants to Maine institutions last year, supporting programs at the Maine State Museum, Maine Arts Commission and individual artists

Trump proposal: eliminates both $150 million programs

House budget: $145 million for each

Senate budget: $148.4 million for each

Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

Comments are no longer available on this story