Tom Ridge, Former GOP Governor of Pennsylvania, Takes Aim at Trump Cuts to Disabilities Programs

Apr 17, 2019

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Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge
Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge appears in Harrisburg, Pa., in January 2015 (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

April 17, 2019 | By John Wagner

Tom Ridge, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and the nation’s first homeland security secretary, criticized the Trump administration on Wednesday for proposed budget cuts to an array of programs supporting people with disabilities.

Ridge, who now serves as chairman of the National Organization on Disability, called the proposed cuts “not only unjust but also fiscally foolish” in an op-ed published by the New York Times.

His criticism comes in the wake of a high-profile reversal by President Trump last month of an administration proposal to cut federal funding for the Special Olympics. Trump said he was overruling Education Department officials in the face of bipartisan backlash.

“That reversal was welcome,” Ridge wrote. “But it was also incomplete. Most Americans do not know that the 2020 budget is still full of cuts that aim directly at many other programs that support people with disabilities.”

Among the programs that Ridge identifies as being “on the chopping block” are independent living centers, assistive-technology programs, supports for individuals living with brain injuries and family caregiver support services. A Labor Department office that promotes the hiring of people with disabilities is also proposed for cutbacks.

“Combined, these cuts total in the tens of millions of dollars,” Ridge wrote. “Cutting funding to these critical programs — that turn tax consumers into taxpayers — is not only unjust but also fiscally foolish.”

In its budget proposal, the Trump administration maintained that it is committed to federal disability programs, including those that promote greater labor force participation, but is also seeking to “reduce unnecessary administrative burdens.”

The nonprofit organization that Ridge leads says its mission is to promote the “full participation and contributions” of the roughly 56 million Americans with disabilities.

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