Schumer champions Biden budget proposal, promises to push president's priorities in negotiations

Mar. 16—WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is lauding the Biden administration's proposed federal budget for next year, which he says will help upstate families while responsibly managing the country's finances.

In a virtual press conference Thursday, Sen. Schumer said the executive budget proposal released last week by President Joseph R. Biden calls for much-needed boosts in funding to many federal programs used across New York, and cuts the federal spending deficit by $3 trillion over a decade in the same stroke.

The president presented a $6.9 trillion budget for fiscal year 2024, which would include a $5 billion tax hike for high earners and corporations and includes a number of policies from the failed Build Back Better legislation. It's a wishlist of the president's priorities, and with Republican control of the House to contend with, it's unlikely that the final federal budget will include much of what the president has called for.

But Sen. Schumer, who leads the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, said he intends to fight to maintain as much of what President Biden has prescribed.

"It has some really good advantages for upstate New York, with so many of the programs that communities from Rochester to Syracuse, Binghamton to Watertown rely on are getting major boosts," he said. "It's a bold, optimistic and serious proposal for strengthening our economy and creating opportunities for places like upstate New York."

Sen. Schumer pointed to the proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of more pharmaceuticals for its covered patients, which would simultaneously save individuals and the federal government millions of dollars into the future. He said that funding could be reallocated for infrastructure investments, education and better health care.

The Community Development Block Grant program, which allocates funds to local governments to be used for downtown revitalization, infrastructure development, housing development, public services and many other activities aimed at improving local quality of life, is proposed to receive a $100 million boost, money that will be rolled out to communities nationwide.

"This program has been a cornerstone for affordable housing, economic development and rebuild Main Streets in our upstate towns, villages and cities," he said.

The federal Heating and Energy Emergency Assistance Program, or HEAP, is given a $111 million boost as well, which would enable it to cover millions more people who need help paying for their home heating costs.

The $35-a-month insulin cap, recently implemented for Medicare and Medicaid recipients and private pharma company Eli Lilly, would be rolled out to cover the entire market.

The Essential Air Service program, which provides federal support for airlines connecting to small rural airports like those in Watertown, Ogdensburg and Massena, would receive $348 million for operations next year, ensuring the program continues.

And the St. Lawrence Seaway would receive a $1.8 million boost over its current year budget, providing more than $40 million in total for the seaway's operations and infrastructure maintenance.

To pay for these initiatives while also reducing the federal deficit, the president's budget would cut down the number of tax loopholes available for high earners and implement a 25% minimum tax rate on people earning billions of dollars a year. It would also repeal the 2017 Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, specifically the aspects of that law that cut corporate tax rates and income taxes for those making over $400,000 per year.

"Folks, this isn't just talk," Sen. Schumer said. "I'm going to be fighting for bipartisan support so we can cut the deficit, save tax dollars and get things done for the people of upstate New York."