Biden's nearly $6T budget aims to bolster EVs, Great Lakes and PFAS cleanup

Washington — President Joe Biden's proposed $5.8 trillion budget calls for $340 million in funding for the federal Great Lakes cleanup program and at least $300 million for electrifying the federal fleet, as well as $126 million to combat PFAS contamination.

The spending plan released Monday includes $1.4 billion to deploy a nationwide electric vehicle charging network and other alternative fuel infrastructure, and devotes billions of dollars to repair highways and bridges and boost transit and rail spending. 

The budget document also looks to reduce the damage risk from major flooding and storms by boosting climate resiliency programs and adaptation programs across the government, and includes initiatives to ease the impact of supply-chain choke points. 

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, March 26, 2022.

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Those programs would increase spending by $206 million to open two new manufacturing "innovation" institutes next year and continue funding for the two institutes opened during 2022, as well as boost by $125 million funding for a partnership aimed at making small and medium-sized manufacturers more competitive.

The budget blueprint faces a fight in Congress, where Democrats hold a narrow margin in the House and control the Senate 50-50 heading into a contentious midterm election.

The Biden administration wants to hike the rate that corporations pay in taxes on their profits and proposes a minimum tax of 20% on households worth more than $100 million — part of an effort to cut the budget deficit by more than $1 trillion over 10 years. The effort faces Republican opposition.

"It achieves significant deficit reduction over the next decade, and it ensures that no one earning less than $400,000 a year we'll pay an additional penny in new taxes," said Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Budget and Management.

The proposal serves as a starting point for negotiations with lawmakers and will likely change as Congress reviews it. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, blasted Biden's budget Monday as "reckless."

"His spending proposal risks sparking even higher inflation at a time when Michigan families continue to struggle with the record-high inflation that really took off after he signed a $2 trillion spending bill last year," Moolenaar said.

"I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the 2023 federal budget works for families and not just Biden’s favorite far-left special interests."

Budgets are a statement of priorities and values, said Rep. Dan Kildee, a Flint Township Democrat and member of the House Budget Committee who praised Biden's proposal for prioritizing working people and "not the wealthiest Americans." 

Kildee also indicated he'd like to see full funding for the Flint Registry restored, meaning keeping the level at $5 million for next year and not $4.5 million as proposed as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's budget. 

"We must fully fund this important resource for Flint families and children recovering from lead exposure during the water crisis," he said. 

EPA plans outlined

States could potentially benefit from a proposed $225 million increase in spending for heating and weatherization aid for low-income households under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which is funded at a level of $4 billion, according to budget documents.

The plan would allow states to use a portion of their LIHEAP funding to provide low-income households with assistance in paying water bills, since the federal program for water assistance created during the pandemic expires at the end of 2023.

Another $100 million was requested for a new pilot project within LIHEAP to electrify and "decarbonize" low-income homes.

Amid the surge in violent crime, the spending plan includes $3.2 billion in discretionary funding for state and local grants and $30 billion for law enforcement and community violence prevention efforts. The budget also outlines plans to support the resettlement of 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2023, as the administration works to restore the government's resettlement program.

The Environmental Protection Agency is requesting $126 million to target chemical contaminants in drinking water known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals, which would be $57 million over this year's enacted level, according to White House officials.

The EPA's budget also outlines an increase of $160 million in grants to tackle lead in drinking water and a $240 million hike in spending for the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse grant program.

The EPA has access to $1 billion for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from the bipartisan infrastructure package adopted last year, in addition to the $340.1 million it's seeking for the program for fiscal year 2023. 

The Energy Department is seeking $3 billion for battery manufacturing and recycling grants over five years, or $600 million a year, as well as $3 billion for battery material processing grants.

The bipartisan infrastructure law boosted the U.S. Department of Transportation's funding by more than 50%. Many of the agencies made formal requests for funding already approved through the law, including $49.8 million for vehicle safety research and $1 billion to begin building a nationwide network of electric vehicle chargers. 

The Transportation Department also requested $27.5 million for the federal fuel economy program to develop rules for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. 

Mental health and schools

The budget also seeks $5 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, a new federal agency to support a high-risk approach to disease research and discovery that's initially envisioned to focus on cancer and diseases like diabetes and dementia.

Health officials are also proposing to authorize all states to participate in a program that uses Medicaid to fund mental health and addiction services provided at federally qualified community health clinics — an initiative stemming from a 2013 bill spearheaded by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Roy Blunt, R-Missouri.

The budget proposal would make the program permanent and increase funding for state grants by $238 million to $553 million. Participating centers must offer services including 24-hour crisis psychiatric care, outpatient services, immediate screenings, risk assessments and integrated help to treat substance abuse. 

The model is intended to keep those needing treatment out of jails, hospitals and off the streets, aiming to reduce the cost and burden on prisons, police and emergency rooms.

The budget released Monday would double funding over the current year's levels for Title I, which goes toward the added educational needs of low-income children at high-poverty schools.

It would also boost support for students with disabilities by providing a $3.3 billion increase in grants to states under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The White House said this would be the largest two-year increase for the IDEA program, though advocates are continuing to push for Congress to follow through on its promise to provide 40% of per-pupil costs. 

"We're glad to see it, no question, but it's clearly long overdue for the government to live up to its decades-old pledge to fund IDEA at their promised 40% level," said Robert McCann, executive director of the K-12 Alliance of Michigan, which advocates for public schools. 

"This is a step in that direction, but we're past the point of asking for steps. We need some leaps to get us to where we should have been all along."

The Education Department's spending plan also would devote $1 billion to aid schools in growing the number of counselors, psychologists and social workers.