- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont officials harshly criticized President Donald Trump’s budget proposal Thursday, saying that it would devastate the state’s environmental clean-up efforts and have wide-ranging economic impacts.

The Republican president’s plan calls for deep cuts to many federal agencies, hitting the Environmental Protection Agency the hardest, with a 31 percent budget reduction.

Lake Champlain, the lake that separates Vermont and New York, would likely be devastated by the cuts, according to Julie Moore, secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources.

“Obviously we are gravely concerned,” Moore said. “We recognize this is the first stop for this budget, and we hope Congress will see this in a different light.”

One-third of the state agency’s funding comes from federal sources.

Even if federal funding dries up, the legal duties borne by the state agencies remain, Moore said. As a consequence, she said, the Agency of Natural Resources could become vulnerable to lawsuits.

Leaders in the Vermont Statehouse said the budget proposal is deeply concerning.

“This would be a huge kick in the gut for our attempts to clean up Vermont’s waterways,” said Vermont President Pro Tem Tim Ashe. “If you care about public health, the environment, safe working conditions, public service, our place in the world, the well-being of low income people and the elderly, world peace, if you care about any of those things, you’re not going to find those things in this budget.”

The state is already preparing for the effects of a Trump budget, Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said in a statement. Lawmakers may be called back to work after the federal budget is passed to address the consequences, she said.

“The president’s proposal has draconian impacts for Vermont and would affect each of us,” Johnson said.

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Phil Scott said the state administration is still looking at the proposal and will work with Vermont’s congressional delegation.

“The governor and his administration are already working to express concerns over cuts that would have an impact locally, including with cuts to the EPA,” said Scott spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley.

All three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation harshly criticized the proposal. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement that Trump’s budget plan is “morally obscene.”

“It will cause devastating pain to the very people Trump promised to help during the campaign,” Sanders said.

Among other impacts, Vermont would lose $6 million in community development grants, lose programs that provide food and shelter for low-income people and would end afterschool programs, according to budget analysts who work for Sanders.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said Trump’s proposal is “divorced from reality.”

“The Trump budget is a hasty list of appallingly unbalanced, shortsighted, politically driven priorities,” Leahy said.

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch said the proposal is dead on arrival.

Congress will write the budget, not President Trump,” Welch said.

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