President Biden’s new budget would impact policing, voting rights and marijuana legalization

TheGrio chatted with Senator Amy Klobuchar and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about how Biden's budget could help address issues important to Black communities.

President Joe Biden’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget, released on Monday, entails a lot of proposed government spending for a range of public services to the tune of $5.8 trillion. Some of the issues of various concern to Black Americans found in the president’s budget are policing, crime, voting rights and even marijuana regulation.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks, alongside U.S Vice President Kamala Harris, after signing H.R. 55, the “Emmett Till Antilynching Act” in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

If approved and passed by Congress, Biden’s budget would increase funding for police, juxtaposed to calls from the left flank of his party to defund the police. Additionally, there is money for voting rights even as it has failed on Capitol Hill, and Americans continue to vote without the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court several years ago.

TheGrio talked exclusively with Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who detailed the new budget proposals and hoped-for impact on voting rights. 

Senator Klobuchar emphasized that despite the Senate’s failed attempt to fast track the Freedom to Vote and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Acts in January, federal voting rights reform is “not dead.” 

“Joe Biden just put $10 billion in the budget to help states pay for things like mail-in ballots. So you might think, well, that won’t happen for a while. Well, it’s also very possible that if we do get to some kind of Democratic-only bill, I’m not going to use the word reconciliation, but… in the next month, we could put voting rights funding in that bill. And that means everything from help to the Justice Department to funding directly for the states,” Klobuchar told theGrio.

Chair Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) delivers an opening statement at a Senate Rules and Administration Committee oversight hearing on January 5, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Elizabeth Frantz-Pool/Getty Images)

The Biden fiscal proposal emphasizes equity, targeting issues of the Black community to include a focus on the escalation of crime across the country. The plan provides $3.2 billion to combat what the White House calls the “gun violence public health epidemic.”  Those discretionary resources are funneled through the Department of Justice for state and local grants.  

There is also a mandatory $30 billion earmarked in the budget to increase funding to support law enforcement and crime prevention, including $500 million for community violence intervention programs. The Biden administration believes the funds will help reduce gun-related homicides and address its root causes.

During the president’s most recent State of the Union address, he proclaimed a disdain for the issue of defunding the police, declaring, “We should all agree: The answer is not to Defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.” Biden is now following up on that call by requesting investments to fix address violent crime, which disproportionately affects Black and Brown Americans. 

Black Lives Matter leaders criticized President Biden’s move in a statement, arguing that the administration is funding policies that have previously failed. “Black people across the country in 2020 were clear in our demand: defund the police to invest in our communities. We won’t let old, dangerous patterns prevail – we will continue our fight for freedom, human dignity and liberation that transforms Black lives, and does not endanger them for the sake of political expediency,” the organization said.

A Pan-African flag flies from Black Lives Matter Plaza overlooking the White House
A Pan-African flag flies from Black Lives Matter Plaza overlooking the White House on Juneteenth to mark the liberation of slavery in 1865 on June 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

Others are weighing in on the president’s policing budget. Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told theGrio that funding for local policing ensures that the district can hire 350 police officers. “That’s going to be important for how we police locally and First Amendment demonstrations. Like we just saw a truck convoy sit on our city for three weeks. We need to make sure we have the right people in place,” said Bowser.

As Mayor Bowser supports police funding, she is on the opposite side of President Biden on the issue of legalizing marijuana. “We remain disappointed that Republican [budget] riders that prevent the district from regulating and taxing marijuana, which is a big public safety issue for us, remains. So we’re going to keep working with the Congress to get those undemocratic riders revoked,” she told theGrio

“We’re not clear on what the politics are…if it’s just related on trying to get the budget through without making waves at the Congress on these riders. But the bottom line for us is that it impacts our ability to make the sales of marijuana safe and efficient.”

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted to legalize marijuana with the MORE Act, or the “Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. The bill would expunge the records of many who were convicted of marijuana offenses and would help ensure that those impacted by the “War on Drugs,” particularly Black and Brown people, can participate in the growing legal cannabis industry. However, it’s unlikely that the MORE Act would pass in an evenly divided Senate.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bowser said she generally supports President Biden’s FY 2023 budget, adding, “The president does a lot of great things that will help crush COVID and help with our comeback.”

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser and President Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden hosts a meeting with Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser (L) about reducing gun violence in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on July 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The White House has promoted other equity components of President Biden’s budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year, including hundreds of millions of dollars for advancing maternal health and health equity, expanding mental healthcare access, connecting Americans to high speed, affordable and reliable internet, and $1.45 billion for advancing equity and environmental justice. 

See more information on President Biden’s FY-2023 budget provided by the White House below:

  1. Advances Maternal Health and Health Equity. The United States has an unacceptably high mortality rate for Black and American Indian and Alaska Native women. The Budget includes $470 million to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates, expand maternal health initiatives in rural communities, implement implicit bias training for healthcare providers, create pregnancy medical home demonstration projects, and address the highest rates of perinatal health disparities, including by supporting the perinatal health workforce. The Budget also extends and increases funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, which serves approximately 71,000 families at risk for poor maternal and child health outcomes each year, and is proven to reduce disparities in infant mortality. The Budget also strengthens collection and evaluation of health equity data. Recognizing that maternal mental health conditions are the most common complications of pregnancy and childbirth, the Budget continues to support the maternal mental health hotline and screening and treatment for maternal depression and related behavioral health disorders.
  1.   Expands Mental Healthcare Access. To address the mental health crisis that disproportionately impacts communities of color, the Budget proposes reforms to health coverage. For people with private health insurance, the Budget requires all health plans to cover mental health and substance use disorder benefits and ensures that plans have an adequate network of behavioral health providers. For Medicare, TRICARE, the VA healthcare system, health insurance issuers, group health plans, and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, the Budget lowers costs for mental health services for patients. The Budget also expands mental health coverage and advances parity between mental health and substance use disorder benefits and medical and surgical benefits within Medicare, and requires Medicaid behavioral health services be consistent with current and clinically appropriate treatment guidelines. 
  1. Connects All Americans to High-Speed, Affordable, and Reliable Internet. The President is committed to ensuring that every American has access to broadband. Black, Latino, Native and rural families are less likely to be able to access home broadband internet than white families and those living in urban areas, compounding systemic barriers to opportunity and economic equality. Building on key investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Budget provides $600 million for the USDA ReConnect program, which provides grants and loans to deploy broadband to unserved rural areas—especially Tribal areas—and $25 million to help rural telecommunications cooperatives refinance their Rural Utilities Service debt and upgrade their broadband facilities.
  1. Advances Equity and Environmental Justice. The Budget provides historic support for underserved communities, and advances the President’s Justice40 commitment to ensure 40 percent of the benefits of Federal investments in climate and clean energy reach disadvantaged communities. The Budget bolsters the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) environmental justice efforts by investing over $1.45 billion across dozens of programs to create good-paying jobs, clean up pollution, implement Justice40, advance racial equity, and secure environmental justice for communities that are overburdened and underserved, including rural and Tribal communities. To align with this vision, the Budget creates the position of Environmental Justice National Program Manager at the EPA to help administer the agency’s equity work. The Budget also provides over $670 million for EPA’s enforcement and compliance efforts, including funding to implement an enforcement plan for climate and environmental justice inspections and community outreach. In addition, the Budget provides the Department of Energy (DOE) with $47 million to strengthen the agency’s environmental justice mission, $100 million to launch a new LIHEAP Advantage pilot to retrofit low-income homes with efficient electric appliances and systems, and $31 million for a new Equitable Clean Energy Transition initiative to help disadvantaged communities navigate and benefit from the transition to a clean energy economy. The Budget also provides $1.4 million for DOJ to establish an Office for Environmental Justice to further this important work.
  1. Expands Access to Affordable, High-Quality Early Child Care and Learning. Families of color are more likely than White families to live in childcare deserts. And, the child care sector is a key engine of opportunity for women of color in the workforce The Budget provides $20.2 billion for HHS’s early care and education programs, an increase of $3.3 billion over the 2021 enacted level. This includes $7.6 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, an increase of $1.7 billion over the 2021 enacted level, to expand access to quality, affordable child care for families. In addition, the Budget helps young children enter kindergarten ready to learn by providing $12.2 billion for Head Start, an increase of $1.5 billion over the 2021 enacted level. The Budget also helps States identify and fill gaps in early education programs by funding the Preschool Development Grants program at $450 million, an increase of $175 million over the 2021 enacted level.

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