Biden's budget proposal targets $600M for electric vehicles, $75M for PFAS

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Washington — President Joe Biden's first budget proposal devotes $600 million for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure across 18 federal agencies, as well as $75 million to address contamination by toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.

The proposed PFAS spending to accelerate toxicity studies and research is part of an $11.2 billion plan for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is a 21% increase over 2021 levels for the agency's budget set under the Trump administration.

President Joe Biden

"Our country has under-invested in core public services, benefits and protections that are incredibly important to our success," an administration official told reporters on a Friday call.

"This budget is intended to right the ship, so to say, in a lot of areas that both parties have shown interest in."

Biden's promise to replace the federal fleet with U.S.-made electric vehicles would likely be a boost for companies like Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., both of which have dedicated billions to making a diverse portfolio of electric vehicles, including pickup trucks, transit vans and delivery vehicles. 

But the $600 million ask may not go far in reaching the goal of replacing the more than 645,000 vehicles in the federal fleet, which has been estimated to cost $20 billion or more. But it represents "a down payment" for a multiyear transformation of the fleet, the administration wrote in the funding request. 

Biden has also promised to roll out 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country to address consumer "range anxiety." In addition, Biden has proposed $174 billion to "win" the electric vehicle market in his infrastructure and jobs plan being considered by Congress. 

General Motors spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said in a Friday statement the company is "excited that President Biden shares our enthusiasm for American manufacturing as well as electric vehicles" and the company thinks "that adding EVs to government fleets and the needed infrastructure to support them is a great way to get more EVs on the road as we work towards a zero-emission, all-electric future."

Republican U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar of Midland criticized a $1 billion cut that Biden is proposing for the budget of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for important priorities in the Great Lakes, including the fight against Asian carp and construction of a new lock at the Soo Locks.

“To invest in infrastructure, President Biden should invest in the Army Corps of Engineers, and not cut its annual budget," said Moolenaar, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

"President Biden’s proposal to cut the Army Corps' annual budget harms those goals and I will be working to stop his cut."

The Corps' budget for the 2021 fiscal year is $7.8 billion. Biden's request is for $6.8 billion, which is a 13% reduction.

But the nonpartisan Alliance for the Great Lakes applauded the administration's proposal to boost the EPA's budget

"This puts the agency in a position to protect and restore one of our country’s most precious resources, the Great Lakes," said Molly Flanagan, the Alliance's chief operating officer and vice president for programs. "Furthermore, the additional funding expands the agency’s enforcement capability to hold polluters accountable."

Friday's budget proposal is considered the "skinny" budget — it's a blueprint for how the administration will shape its full budget proposal to come without significant details of each spending initiative. Congress, led by Democrats in both chambers but with narrow margins, will consider the request and craft the final budget over the coming months. 

The spending request is 16% more than current fiscal year spending, the administration said, an effort to correct for "broad disinvestment" in non-defense spending over the last several years. 

"This pandemic has exposed serious needs in Michigan and across the country, and it underscores the need for serious action," said Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Southfield Democrat who is vice chair of the Appropriations Committee.

"After four years of inadequate funding proposals, President Biden’s budget request takes critical steps to meet the challenges in our communities and sets our country up for a better future."

The budget request outlined Friday includes $3.6 billion for water infrastructure, which represents an increase of $625 million over the current spending level. The funds could boost water system upgrades for water systems, schools and households.

The proposal also has $6.5 billion to launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, as part of Biden's commitment to curing cancer. The new agency — part of a $51 billion budget for the National Institutes of Health — would have an initial focus on cancer and diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's, officials said.

Also included is $10.7 billion targeted at combating the opioid crisis, which is $3.9 billion more than current funding levels. That would include funding for states and medication-assisted treatment, research and expanding the behavioral health provider workforce.

The budget proposal targets a "historic" $20 billion increase for Title I funding, which goes toward the added educational needs of low-income children at high-poverty schools, for a total of $36.5 billion in Title I grants.

The administration also indicated it intends to restore the federal refugee resettlement program, with a $4.3 billion budget. Officials say that would support the resettlement of up to 125,000 refugees next year, which would be the highest number of refugees admitted to the country in three decades. 

Former President Donald Trump last year had slashed the cap for refugees admitted in the 2021 fiscal year to 15,000, the lowest level ever.

White House officials indicated that Biden's full budget proposal, with greater detail, will be coming in late spring but that they wanted to give the appropriations committees on Capitol Hill something to start working with.

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