September 17, 2021

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Biden Details $1.52 Trillion Spending Request – The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration proposed a significant expansion of federal spending on Friday, asking Congress to bolster funding by 16 percent for domestic programs including education, health research and fighting climate change as it tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.

The nearly 60-page request, totaling $1.52 trillion for domestic discretionary programs, comes on top of President Biden’s plan to seek trillions of dollars in new infrastructure spending. It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget request the White House will release this spring.

The request is a declaration of Mr. Biden’s belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is key to economic growth and prosperity by directing government dollars toward some of the country’s biggest problems, including poverty and a warming climate.

Among its major new spending initiatives, the plan would dedicate an additional $20 billion to help schools that serve low-income children, create a multi-billion-dollar program for researching diseases like cancer and sharply increase government spending to fight and adapt to the damages of climate change.

It would also seek to lift the economies of Central American countries, where rampant poverty, corruption and devastating hurricanes have fueled migration toward the southwestern border and a variety of initiatives to address homelessness and housing affordability, including on tribal lands. And it asks for an increase of about 2 percent in spending on national defense.

All told, the proposal calls for a $118 billion increase in discretionary spending in the 2022 fiscal year, when compared with the base spending allocations this year. It seeks to capitalize on the expiration of a decade of caps on spending growth, which lawmakers agreed to in 2010 but frequently broke in subsequent years.

Administration officials would not specify on Friday whether that increase would result in higher budget deficits in their coming budget proposal, but promised its full budget would “address the overlapping challenges we face in a fiscally and economically responsible way.”

As part of that effort, the request seeks $1 billion in new funding for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce tax laws, including “increased oversight of high-income and corporate tax returns.” That is clearly aimed at raising tax receipts and cracking down on tax avoidance by the wealthy.

Officials said the proposals did not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which he introduced last week, or for a second plan he has yet to roll out, which will focus on what officials call “human infrastructure” like education and child care.

Congress, which is responsible for approving government spending, is under no requirement to adhere to the White House budget, which is generally viewed as a political messaging document. In recent years, lawmakers rejected many of the Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.

The budget office does not have a confirmed director, after Mr. Biden’s first pick for the job, Neera Tanden, withdrew from consideration amid Republican opposition centered on her past statements on Twitter that were critical of conservatives. Shalanda D. Young, who was confirmed last month by the Senate to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is serving as Mr. Biden’s acting budget director.

In a letter accompanying the proposal on Friday, Ms. Young told congressional leaders that the discretionary spending process would be an “important opportunity to continue laying a stronger foundation for the future and reversing a legacy of chronic disinvestment in crucial priorities.”

Education is a major focus. The administration asked Congress to bolster funding to high-poverty schools by $20 billion, which it describes as the largest year-over-year increase to the Title I program since its inception under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The proposal also seeks billions of dollars in increases to early-childhood education, to programs serving students with disabilities and to efforts to staff schools with nurses, counselors and mental health professionals — described as an attempt to help children recover from the pandemic, but also a longstanding priority for teachers’ unions.

Unlike during the Obama years, there is no talk of tying federal dollars to accountability measures for teachers and schools, a signal of the closeness of the Biden administration to interest groups that have opposed such measures, including teachers’ unions, as well as broader shifts among center-left education activists around the importance of addressing baseline resource inequities that affect students of color and those from low-income families.

The request also shows an increasing sense of urgency in the Biden administration to deter migration to the southwestern border.

Mr. Biden proposed investing $861 million in Central America, just a margin of the four-year $4 billion package the administration has committed to spending to improve the economy and quality of life in the region. Another $1.2 billion would go toward investing in border security technology, such as sensors to detect illegal crossings and tools to improve entry ports. Mr. Biden followed up on his commitment to provide no new funding for border wall construction.

The proposal directs significant government dollars toward addressing climate change across the government, requesting $14 billion toward advancing Mr. Biden’s vision of having every cabinet chief, whether they are military leaders, diplomats, fiscal regulators or federal housing planners, charged with incorporating climate change into their missions.

The broad-based increase in climate spending across government agencies would come on top of clean energy spending in Mr. Biden’s proposed infrastructure legislation, which would pour about $500 billion on programs such as increasing electric vehicle production and building climate-resilient roads and bridges.

If successful, Mr. Biden’s approach to using the federal budget to fight climate change could anchor those programs into the heart of the government for years to come — but it could also politicize and inflame fights over programs such as agriculture and transportation spending.

Much of the proposed increased in climate spending would go to research and development of advanced low-carbon energy technology, which would be funneled through the Energy Department’s network of national laboratories.

Funding at the Energy Department would increase by $4.3 billion, or 10.2 percent over last year’s levels. That includes $1.7 billion to research and develop technologies such as new nuclear power plants or hydrogen fuels and $1.9 billion for a new clean-energy initiative to upgrade existing homes across the country and make them more energy-efficient, as well as to speed up the permitting up of transmission lines that can carry wind and solar power across the country. Mr. Biden has proposed further spending on those efforts in his infrastructure plan.

The plan would also increase funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, whose funding and staffing levels the Trump administration sought to cut. The proposal asks for a $2 billion increase from the previous year’s enacted level, including $110 million just to restore the hundreds of employees who left the agency in recent years.

The proposal also explicitly puts fighting climate change at the core of the E.P.A.’s mission, after the Trump administration sought to minimize and dismiss climate programs. Mr. Biden would double the agency’s climate change research budget and puts $1.8 billion into programs to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas pollution.

The request would also spend what Mr. Biden calls “the largest investment in environmental justice in history,” requesting $1.4 billion on programs to redress the disproportionate impacts of pollution borne by poor and minority communities.

It promises to pay in full funding to United Nations health and human rights agencies that were withheld when the Trump administration threatened to leave. It also cites efforts to counter authoritarian governments, specifically calling out China and Russia, while pledging to fully pay American commitments to longtime Middle East allies, including Israel and Jordan, where King Abdullah II said last week he faced a palace coup.

Mr. Biden’s proposal calls for an almost 25 percent increase in discretionary funding — to $131.7 billion — for the Department of Health and Human Services, the hub of the federal government’s pandemic response. That increase includes a $1.6 billion increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency public health experts have viewed as chronically underfunded and neglected until public health emergencies. Data collection would be modernized, and epidemiologists would be trained to support local health departments.

Almost a billion dollars would go to the Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve, for supplies and efforts to restructure it that began last year.

Mr. Biden’s proposal includes a stark increase in funding for the chronically underfunded Indian Health Service, advancing a campaign promise.

And it includes a $900 million investment to expand affordable housing and improve housing conditions on Native American reservations.

Reporting was contributed by Coral Davenport, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Lisa Friedman, Brad Plumer, Christopher Flavelle, Mark Walker, Dana Goldstein, Mark Walker, Noah Weiland, Margot Sanger-Katz and Lara Jakes.

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