Senate Democrats

The Bush Budget Shortchanges State and Local Law Enforcement and First Responders

While President Bush often speaks of his commitment to homeland security, his budget proposals for the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security tell a different story.� For Fiscal Year 2009, the President has once again proposed deep cuts for critical state and local law enforcement and first responder programs.� As America�s frontline struggles to respond to increased violent crime, natural disasters, and the threat of terrorism, the Administration�s budget request irresponsibly proposes to cut, by more than $3.5 billion under Fiscal Year 2008 levels, funding for programs designed to train, hire, and equip firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and law enforcement officers.

Instead of responding to first responders call for help, the President is asking Congress to cut $1.9 billion (or 48 percent) in funding for state and local government and first responder grant programs in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).� These programs allow states and localities to test and improve their disaster and terrorism response.� Despite the importance of these programs, the Bush budget asks Congress to drastically cut these programs for the fifth year in a row.� The President�s request would:

�        Slash $750 million (or 79 percent) in funding for the State Homeland Security Grant Program, which provides funding to all 56 states and territories based on risk.�

�        Underfund the Urban Area Security Imitative Grant Program,which needs more than a $5 million (or 0.6 percent) increase to provide adequate funding to high-threat, high-density urban areas.� The Bush budget would not allow the program to keep up with inflation.�

�        Slash funding for FIRE Act grants by 60 percent:

�        Cutting funding to the Assistance to Firefighter Grants program by 46 percent.  This program provides direct assistance to local fire departments to better protect firefighters and the public. 

�        Eliminating funding for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program. �SAFER makes grants to ensure that fire departments have 24-hour staffing.

�        Cut 33 percent in funding for Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG), which state emergency management agencies use to enhance and improve their response to natural and man-made disasters.� ��

�        Eliminate funding for the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grants, which selected jurisdictions use to test innovative technologies and strategies to increase interoperability among the fire service, law enforcement, and emergency medical service communities.

�        Eliminate funding for the Metropolitan Medical Response System Grants (MMRS), which localities may use to enhance and improve their medical response to chemical, biological or nuclear terrorist attacks as well as epidemics, chemical accident, or natural disasters.�

�        Cut $190 million (or 48 percent) in funding for the Port Security Grants program, which funds security planning and projects to improve dockside and perimeter security.

�        Cut $225 million (or 56 percent) in funding for Rail and Transit Security Grants, which funds security planning and projects to close gaps in our public transportation systems.�

�        Reduce funding for training, exercises, and technical assistance by $154 million (or 52 percent).��

Instead of answering state and local law enforcement�s call for help, President Bush has proposed a $1.6 billion (or 63 percent) cut to state and local law enforcement grants in the Department of Justice.� These programs were instrumental in placing more than 100,000 cops on the street and drastically reducing violent crime in the 1990s.� Despite their success, the Bush Administration re-prioritized state and local law enforcement programs at the back of the line, cutting programs like the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne/JAG) by $1.7 billion since 2001 and failing to keep up our anti-crime efforts as we fought the war on terror.� In 2005, the country reaped the consequences of this irresponsible policy when, according to FBI estimates, violent crime increased significantly for the first time in years.� State and local law enforcement agencies have responded by urging the President and Congress to reinvest in traditional crime fighting at the federal level, especially in this period of economic downturn when local budgets have tightened.� Last year, the Democratic-led Congress answered their call for help by funding state and local law enforcement programs at $2.6 billion for Fiscal Year 2008.� President Bush, however, responded by funding these programs at only $1 billion, offering yet another year of drastic budget cuts and program eliminations.� The President�s budget for Fiscal Year 2009 would:

�        Eliminate funding for COPS. �COPS helps state and local law enforcement agencies hire police officers, enhance crime fighting technology, support crime prevention initiatives, and combat methamphetamine use and distribution. �Congress funded these programs at $587 million for Fiscal Year 2008.� The President�s budget would eliminate funding for the program.�

�        Eliminate the Byrne/JAG program.  Byrne/JAG program helps state and local governments address gangs, drugs, and school violence.� Congress funded these programs at $170 million for Fiscal Year 2008.� The President�s budget would eliminate funding for the program.�

President Bush�s Fiscal Year 2009 budget also proposes cutting $120 million (or 30 percent) in funding for the Office of Violence Against Women (VAW).  VAW provides national leadership on issues relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking by providing grants to help victims with the protection and services they need. The budget request would eliminate all VAW formula grant programs, including the stop grant program and the sexual assault hotline grant program.� Further, because the request shifts all funding to discretionary spending, grant programs that protect children and people with disabilities could be eliminated.�

Fire fighter and law enforcement leaders have expressed disappointment with the President�s budget request. ��Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, assailed the Bush budget, noting that the President,� � proposed eliminating or drastically reducing funding for important programs that make our neighborhoods, our citizens and our country safer. �A president interested in protecting Americans would not cut funding for the Homeland Security Department�s first responder grant programs. President Bush is surprisingly ignorant of the value that the FIRE Act and SAFER grants provide to the smallest towns and the largest cities across this country� With his short-sighted budget proposal, President Bush has ignored the wishes of Congress, which made a very strong bipartisan statement last year when it saved the SAFER grant program and boosted funding for the FIRE Act.� (February 4, 2008)

Jeffrey Horvath, Chief of Police of Dover, Delaware told the Senate Judiciary Committee that �Law enforcement is being asked to do more with less. If we have fewer police on the streets to prevent crime and to protect our communities we will see a rise in crime across this country. �That is inevitable. �The COPS program used to be funded at over one billion dollars. �It has been cut to $20 million in fiscal year 2008. �The presidents proposed budget for fiscal year 2009 would completely eliminate the COPS program. �As a police chief I consider this madness.� (February 19, 2008)