Obama calls for more drug treatment, cybersecurity funding in final budget

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama sent his final federal budget proposal to Congress on Tuesday, a $4.1 trillion spending package that calls for increased investment in cybersecurity, cancer research, opioid addiction and other Maryland priorities.

The spending plan, which relies on $2.6 trillion in new taxes over the next decade, met with swift criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill and is unlikely to advance in its current form. Still, the proposal includes some bipartisan overtures, and it offers important insight into what the president hopes to accomplish during his last year in office.


For Maryland, the Obama administration continues to signal a commitment to a new headquarters for the FBI, a project that state leaders hope to land in Prince George's County. The state's roughly 300,000 federal employees, meanwhile, would receive a 1.6 percent pay raise, though federal employee unions have said the increase would not be enough to keep pace with the private sector.

The document is an opening offer in what will be the Obama administration's last budget negotiation with Congress after years of bitter fights over deficits and taxes. Under the blueprint for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, budget deficits over the next decade would add up to $9.8 trillion.


"The budget that we're releasing today reflects my priorities and the priorities that I believe will help advance security and prosperity in America for many years to come," Obama said Tuesday.

Republicans dismissed the measure as unworkable. They announced this week that they would break with tradition and not schedule a hearing for White House Budget Director Shaun Donovan to address lawmakers.

"President Obama will leave office having never proposed a budget that balances — ever," House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said in a statement. "This isn't even a budget so much as it is a progressive manual for growing the federal government at the expense of hardworking Americans."

There is the potential for some agreement. Republicans, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, have expressed concern about the rise of heroin abuse in the state. More than 300 people died from alcohol and drug overdoes in Baltimore in 2014, up more than 40 percent from 2012.

The Obama administration is calling for $1 billion in new funding over two years for treatment of heroin and prescription drug addiction. States would receive the added federal money based on the severity of their problem and the strategy proposed to confront it, White House officials have said.

"We need far more resources," said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore's health commissioner. "To see the president addressing this through medical treatment and not incarceration is very important."

Obama's budget also calls for nearly $1 billion in federal funding for cancer research, including $680 million for the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health. It includes $1.4 billion for a new FBI building, a project that has received some funding from the GOP-controlled Congress.

"The president has done his part getting the budget process started," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. "Now Congress must do its job reviewing the proposals."

Obama is asking Congress for a large investment to address cybersecurity threats, saying that the government's computer systems require an overhaul. The president pointed to the Woodlawn-based Social Security Administration, where he said there are 400 employees "whose sole job is to continually deal with this ancient software because it's consistently breaking down."

Obama is asking Congress for a $19 billion boost in cybersecurity funding across all government agencies — an increase of more than 35 percent from last year.

Separately, Obama has proposed $1.8 billion to combat the Zika virus, asking for the money immediately as emergency spending on top of the $1.1 trillion catchall spending bill that passed in December. He also wants to boost funding to deal with the water crisis in Flint, Mich., by increasing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency's state drinking water fund by $158 million.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who has championed legislation to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, has objected that Obama would get that money by transferring funds from a separate state clean-water fund.


"We cannot take money away from the fund that cleans up the polluted Flint River — the source of Flint's drinking water — and put it into fixing Flint's pipes," said Cardin, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

"The water infrastructure in Flint must be replaced, but funding the replacement at the expense of funds designed to remediate the pollution in the Flint River will still leave residents with a polluted water source."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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