Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition
Lindsey Bacigal, BacigalL@nwf.org, (734) 887-7113
Jordan Lubetkin, Lubetkin@nwf.org, (734) 904-1589
Five Take-aways From Biden Budget
The Biden Administration released its proposed budget on Monday, March 28. There’s a lot to like in the budget, as well as some things that could be improved (read more in the Coalition’s Biden budget press release). Here are some take-aways from the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.
- The budget is good for clean water advocates. The budget, by and large, is very robust. It boosts funding to core environmental and clean water programs, and provides the EPA and other agencies with significant funding increases to effectively staff and implement these programs. It also continues to prioritize helping communities most impacted by pollution and environmental harm. And it confronts climate change—which is exacerbating many threats to the Great Lakes and communities in the region, such as polluted runoff and flooding.
- The budget is not perfect. In fairness, no budget is. The main head-scratcher in the Biden Budget is the cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the marquee program to protect and restore the Great Lakes. The program invests in activities like cleaning up toxic pollution, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, and reducing runoff pollution. The $8 million cut (from current funding of $348 million to $340 million) really does not make sense, given the fact that 1) federal investments to restore the Great Lakes have been so effective (just read some of the Coalition’s many Great Lakes restoration success stories), and 2) there is much more work to do to tackle serious threats that contribute tot fish consumption advisories, beach closures, and drinking water restrictions throughout the region.
- The Biden Administration (and Congress) cannot rest on their laurels. The Biden Administration’s proposed budget comes on the heels of the historic passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law (the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) that will, over the next five years, provide an unprecedented level of federal funding for many clean water priorities. As has been said (by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and others), this funding will be a game-changer in helping communities confront water pollution challenges. These investments, however, will not fix all of the problems that plague the Great Lakes and the communities in the eight-state region. That’s why annual federal budgets need to remain robust. It will be counterproductive if federal lawmakers use these supplemental funds to supplant annual funding to essential clean water programs under the assumption that the bipartisan infrastructure law took care of everything.
- Congress needs to seal the deal. The president kicks off the budget process. Congress has the final say. Now it’s up to the Great Lakes congressional delegation to ensure that regional Great Lakes and clean water priorities are funded in the fiscal year 2023 budget, which begins Oct. 1. The good news is that members of Congress are already circulating a letter urging colleagues to support $400 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
- The Biden Administration needs to follow through on implementation. Ensuring that federal investments reach the communities most impacted by pollution will be essential. The Biden Administration has emphasized its commitment to doing just that. It will be important that its actions match its words. There are still many communities that have a difficult time accessing federal funds due to insufficient staff capacity or lack of information. We encourage the Biden Administration continue to enhance community outreach and offer technical assistance to communities that have historically not had access to federal funding. This will help ensure that everyone has access to the help they need to, one day, provide clean, safe, and affordable water to everyone.