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100 days: Tump’s impact in N.H. from voting to the military

  • President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Harrisburg, Pa., Saturday, April 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky



Monitor staff
Saturday, April 29, 2017

In a first 100 days dominated by executive orders, reform-minded legislation and budget plans, President Donald Trump’s most direct impact on New Hampshire politics started with a tweet.

In the months after the election, Trump and his staff alleged massive voter fraud in the state, despite no evidence to back up the claim. Each time, the story went national and state election officials went on the defensive, repeating that there was no proof of widespread voter fraud in the state.

Trump first made the claim just two weeks after winning the election against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Trump won the Electoral College vote, but he lost New Hampshire.

Trump, who had showered New Hampshire with praise in the weeks leading up to the general election, quickly turned on the Granite State. “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this?” he tweeted on Nov. 27.

In the months that followed, that claim would be repeated by Trump and senior adviser Stephen Miller.

Claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire have circulated well before Trump. Republicans have long argued that existing laws open the state to “drive-by” voting from out-of-state residents. However, the president arguably offered the largest megaphone.

State officials and legislators have talked about wanting to ensure the integrity of New Hampshire’s elections, especially given the fact the state hosts the First in the Nation primary. Republican lawmakers recently proposed SB 3 – a bill that would impose new residency requirements on people who register to vote within 30 days of an election, and allow local election officials to go check up on people if there’s a question about residency.

Bill backers say it will crack down on opportunities for fraud by verifying people who are voting actually live in New Hampshire and sponsors are adamant that it won’t make it any more difficult for voters to prove they live in the state.

Having passed the State Senate, the bill is now in a New Hampshire House committee and will be voted on soon. If passed by the legislature, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has indicated he will sign the legislation.

While voter fraud has been one of the most high-profile issues to impact New Hampshire, a number of Trump’s executive orders and proposed budget changes would also impact the Granite State. Here are some of them.

Healthcare

On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. However, he failed to deliver on his promise when the Republican American Health Care Act proposed by Speaker Paul Ryan and backed by Trump didn’t even make it to a floor vote.

The bill, which would have caused millions to lose their health insurance, was unpopular with many who felt it went too far. Many conservatives, meanwhile, believed it didn’t go far enough.

New Hampshire residents who voted for Trump say they still want the president to make an effort to change the Affordable Care Act, although they say it should be deliberate – not rushed, like the failed Republican American Health Care Act.

Beyond insurance coverage, Trump’s budget takes aim at government grants for health and science, including a proposed $6 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health, a fifth of its budget.

A lot of NIH money gets spent in New Hampshire; over $98 million was awarded to New Hampshire organizations in fiscal year 2016, according to the Science Coalition. The nonpartisan group Research America also estimates New Hampshire currently gets $234 million from the federal government for research and development, with another $56 million going to the state’s universities for research projects.

Opioids

New Hampshire’s opioid crisis received a lot of attention from national politicians in the 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump was no different.

Now in office, Trump has often talked about stopping the crisis and expanding treatment, but so far, there has been no increase in spending for drug treatment or prevention programs. In fact, some of his actions as president would reduce the amount of money the state gets from the federal government to help fight addiction.

Trump’s budget does not increase funding for drug treatment and prevention programs. The president’s budget proposes $100 million in cuts to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the government agency responsible for treatment and prevention grants.

Furthermore, the failed health care reform plan backed by Trump would have removed a requirement for expanded Medicaid states to cover mental health and substance abuse in their benefits.

Beyond money for treatment, expect some changes in overall drug policy under the Trump administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recently equated marijuana use with heroin addiction.

Still, the drug crisis is something his administration has outlined as a serious priority. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price recently announced that the government was releasing $485 million in money approved by Congress last year for treatment and prevention, $3.1 million of which is headed to New Hampshire. Price also said he would consider changing the funding formula for this money next year, looking to send money to states hardest hit by the opioid crisis like New Hampshire and West Virginia.

Environment

The Trump administration has taken bold actions to reverse climate-related measures imposed by the previous administration. These include the Jan. 24 executive order rescinding President Barack Obama’s orders for a climate change action plan, reducing methane emissions, assessing climate change and national security, and mitigating impacts on natural resources.

Trump’s proposed budget also cuts EPA funding by 31 percent, a decrease of $2.6 billion and 3,200 jobs. It defunds all climate change science, international partnership programs and the Clean Power Plan.

This national environmental policy affects New Hampshire directly. A New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services study from 2004 shows that when unhealthy air occurs in the state, between 92 and 100 percent of the ozone and small particle air pollution comes from out-of-state.

Trump’s proposed budget also cuts EPA programs that currently pay for New Hampshire projects.

These include the Superfund, which provides federal grants to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous materials. The EPA announced three New Hampshire sites that were awarded the grant in February: the Auburn Road landfill in Londonderry, Beede Waste Oil in Plaistow and Fletcher’s Paint Works and Storage in Milford.

The budget proposal does include some funding increases for the EPA, like a $4 million increase for state revolving funds. This amount is minimal, however. When the EPA approved a 2015 New Hampshire sewage plant and drinking water system upgrade project, for example, the EPA put $22.7 million in two state revolving fund programs for that one project.

New Hampshire groups have protested the Trump administration’s actions. The New Hampshire Audubon put out a statement opposing the nomination – and eventual appointment – of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. He recently visited coal miners to discuss deregulation.

Immigration

Trump administration changes to immigration policy in the first 100 days have had perhaps the most immediate impact on Americans, including Granite Staters.

Following the Jan. 27 executive order prohibiting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries and the temporary halting of refugee arrivals, a number of New American residents in New Hampshire experienced fear and turmoil.

A Dartmouth-Hitchcock medical resident was unsure whether he would see his wife again – she was in the final stages of emigrating from Iran. The owner of Concord’s Wow Fried Chicken & Subs, originally from Iraq, said he had thought of bringing his toddler-aged niece here for medical attention, but no longer saw how. Clients of Ascentria Care Alliance’s Services for New Americans program suddenly felt unwelcome, and were afraid to leave their homes.

That agency, due to the moratorium on new refugees, has had a reduced caseload. This led to a reduction in federal funding and the cutting of staff positions in its New Hampshire offices.

Some saw these presidential actions as an opportunity. The Islamic Society of Greater Concord’s Imam, Mustafa Akaya, said the focus on American Muslims brought public pressure, but also an outpouring of support. He spoke at one gathering outside the State House that welcomed New Americans to New Hampshire.

Others like Trump supporter and Londonderry Republican state Rep. Al Baldasaro approved of the slowdown in refugee arrivals – it was in keeping with Trump’s “America First” campaign promises. More Granite Staters who supported Trump feel he is improving the country’s national security.

While the two versions of the executive order restricting travel and halting refugees have both been challenged and temporarily blocked by federal judges, the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration continue.

These plans to curb undocumented immigration have put extra pressure on those that rely on unauthorized workers, like dairy farmers in New Hampshire who are worried about losing their labor. The industry employs these individuals due to lack of American workers and long-term guest worker programs.

Economy

Trump ran on a platform of job creation. Three months into his presidency, Trump is saying that the United States has already added 600,000 jobs under his tenure.

However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number is closer to 317,000. The total number of jobs created from January is 533,000, but economists credit 216,000 of those created in January to Obama.

In New Hampshire, the unemployment rate has increased slightly, going up to 2.8 percent in March from 2.7 percent in February.

Trump’s proposed budget would impact New Hampshire’s economy with cuts to federal programs that help rural parts of the states and community development block grants.

The president’s budget proposed to eliminate the Northern Border Regional Commission, which provides federal grants specifically to rural counties in New England, including Carroll, Coos, Grafton and Sullivan counties in New Hampshire. The grants provided through the commission are meant to spur economic development and job creation in these areas.

“It can be very important seed money,” said New Hampshire’s Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development Jeff Rose.

Rose said federal community development block grants could also be affected for projects including economic development, public housing and community planning. New Hampshire received $3.1 million in block grant money in 2015.

“They are very much a part of the collaborative economic process,” Rose said. “When their budgets get impacted, that will mean a reduction in services.”

Rose said this is far from the first time he’s seen cuts proposed to federal programs whose goal is to stimulate the local economy. Ultimately, Congress has a big say in what happens with the budget and Rose said he’s hopeful that New Hampshire congressional delegation will speak up and fight to keep these programs.

“This is just a starting point, it’s a dialogue,” he said.

Infrastructure

Trump has made big promises for an infrastructure bill – as much as $1 trillion – as recently as last week. He said it might be packaged with a new healthcare plan as a way to gain bipartisan support for the latter issue.

This could help support New Hampshire’s infrastructure revitalization efforts. The American Society of Civil Engineers issued the state a C- on its 2017 infrastructure report card, indicating that the state’s airports, bridges, dams, roads, solid and hazardous waste, drinking water, ports and railroads are “mediocre” and “require attention.”

New Hampshire’s stormwater and wastewater systems received a D+ and the ASCE said they are “poor” and “at risk.”

News reports indicate there is no timeline for Trump’s bill yet. When and if it does materialize, it is expected to be a 10-year investment proposal that includes public-private partnerships to help upgrade the country’s infrastructure.

In the meantime, Trump issued an executive order in January that instructs his Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality to decide whether an infrastructure project submitted by a state governor qualifies as “high priority” for environmental review and approval within 30 days.

New Hampshire Department of Transportation submitted seven projects this winter, including a $152 million reconstruction of Exits 6 and 7 on the Everett Turnpike. NHDOT spokesman Bill Boynton said the department hasn’t heard much back yet.

He said the biggest concern for NHDOT now is the continued funding of the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, which apportioned $169,952,788 to New Hampshire for 2017.

“That’s a good portion of our federal funding that we use for capital and construction projects,” Boynton.

In the Trump administration’s budget proposal for 2018, the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects grant program is maintained with $900 million annually until 2020. (New Hampshire was appropriated $4,566,653 from the grant program for 2017).

While the 2018 budget “blueprint” suggests increasing the Department of Transportation’s spending by $2.4 billion, or 13 percent, there are few details of where that extra funding would go.

The budget blueprint is heavy on outlining funding reductions, such as the elimination of the Essential Air Service program. The program helps subsidize commercial air service to rural communities, such as Lebanon airport.

Military

Trump is throwing the full weight of the office behind the country’s military.

Trump has increased defense funding dramatically in his 2018 budget proposal.

The “blueprint” includes a $52 billion spending increase for the Department of Defense, a 10 percent jump, plus $2 billion more to national defense programs outside the DoD. The budget proposal also terminates the 2011 Budget Control Act’s defense sequestration.

These spending suggestions are promising for companies like Nashua-based BAE Systems, which garnered a position on an eight-year, $3 billion contract with the U.S. Army to design next-generation space and missile defense technologies.

The Portsmouth Naval Yard has already benefited from its military status. When the Trump administration issued a Jan. 23 federal hiring freeze that included all but military personnel, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen requested the administration exempt civilian personnel working at the shipyard, too. This request was granted.

In addition to active military personnel, Trump has long pledged support for U.S. veterans. On April 19, he signed a bill extending the Veteran’s Choice Program until January, which offers coverage through non-Veteran Affairs Administration providers for veterans living far away from VA hospitals.

New Hampshire is among the states without a full-service VA medical facility, meaning any veterans who live here – and who aren’t within 20 miles of the White River Junction VA facility in Vermont – are eligible for the Veterans Choice Program.

News reports indicate timeliness and patient access problems for the program. The bill Trump signed, however, intends to improve those. In addition, the 2018 budget proposal supports that work with a $4.4 billion increase in the Department of Veterans Affairs discretionary spending budget.

Social Services

Trump’s budget plan looks to scale back services to the neediest Americans – including New Hampshire’s 100,000 or so people living below poverty level.

In his 2018 budget “blueprint,” Trump cuts the Department of Labor by $2.5 billion, or 21 percent. While the administration plans to help states expand apprenticeship programs, the proposal includes closing Job Corps centers and reducing funding for job training and employment service formula grants.

In other areas of the budget, social programs like the Legal Services Corporation have been eliminated completely.

In New Hampshire, the Legal Services Corporation funds about 70 percent of the Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC) in Concord, which acts as the screening agency for New Hampshire Legal Assistance and the New Hampshire Bar Association’s pro-bono program.

LARC executive director Breckie Hayes-Snow said without federal funding, LARC would likely close, and apart from that office and programs like Legal Assistance, she said, “There isn’t anybody out there lobbying for poor people because there’s no money in it.”

Franklin resident Mae Bilodeau avoided eviction through LARC services, and though she voted for Trump, she disapproves of him cutting the services used by the poor, such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The program helps people with disabilities, the elderly and the low-income population with fuel costs each winter.

Under the proposed Department of Housing and Urban Development budget for 2018, the Trump administration suggests eliminating the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, downshifting community economic development to state resources.

“The program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results,” the blueprint reads.

In Concord, a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant is what allowed the Friendly Kitchen to rebuild its soup kitchen after a fire razed the old building in April 2011.

The HUD budget does provide $35 billion for the rental assistance programs assisting 4.5 million low-income households. This is a $3 billion reduction over the 2017 budget.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report).