These vital N.J. needs would get big bucks from Biden’s new proposed budget

Posted Apr 09, 2021

The federal program to help fund the Gateway Tunnel and Portal Bridge, and grants to help Camden, Newark and other New Jersey communities would see more money under President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for the 12 months beginning Sept. 1.

The spending proposal was released Friday in advance of a more detailed budget, including proposed tax changes, that will be announced later this year.

Overall, Biden proposed spending $769 billion on non-defense programs, up 16% over current levels, and $753 billion on the Pentagon, up 1.7%. The spending is just part of the overall federal budget.

Biden proposed increasing the Capital Investment Grant program to $2.5 billion, up 23% from current levels. This is the Federal Transit Administration program that will provide most of Washington’s share of the $1.8 billion project to construct a new Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River.

It also will be the source of funds for the federal share of the Gateway Tunnel project under the Hudson River, which then would allow the existing tubes to be closed to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

One of the holdups in making Gateway eligible for those funds, an environmental impact statement, now is scheduled to be finished by May 28, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Friday. The original deadline was March 30, 2018. Gov. Phil Murphy said the announcement was “a major step towards relief for New Jersey commuters.”

Biden’s budget also proposed spending $882 million to clean up Superfund sites. New Jersey has more contaminated sites than any other state.

And there is $75 million to address pollution from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, which is blamed for drinking water contamination. Firefighting foam used at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst contained PFAS, and New Jersey sued the federal government in January to force it to clean up the chemicals contaminating groundwater supplies near the installation.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said those expenditures were all part of an effort to restore environmental protection.

“The main thing here is President Biden is trying to rebuild EPA from all the cutbacks and all the efforts to basically weaken it,” said Pallone, D-6th Dist. “Trump tried to eliminate science and the function of science. He did not do enforcement. He tried to weaken the laws through regulatory actions.

The budget also sets aside $2 billion for clean energy projects at a time when New Jersey is moving ahead with building offshore wind farms along the Jersey Shore.

In some cases, Biden’s budget marked a 180 degree turn from President Donald Trump’s spending proposals, all of which were rejected by Congress.

For example, Biden proposed $3.8 billion for Community Development Block Grants, up $295 million, which Trump unsuccessfully sought to eliminate. The money goes to urban areas for housing and economic development. New Jersey and the state’s counties, cities, and towns received $88.2 million in 2019.

While Trump sought to slash Amtrak funding, Biden proposed increasing the passenger railroad’s budget by 35% to $2.7 billion for the Northeast Corridor and other routes.

And Biden proposed increased funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, and the Women, Infants, and Children program, by more than $1 billion to $6.7 billion. Trump tried to cut spending on nutrition programs.

New Jersey had 815,000 individuals in about 419,000 households receiving food stamps, according to the Human Services Department. And the monthly average of WIC participants was 140,987 as of February, according to the state Health Department.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-04-10 02:15:57 -0700