February 7, 2008

New Jersey Senators: Bush Budget Undermines Security in Garden State

2-7-2008 New Jersey:

First Responders, Security for Ports, Transit and Infrastructure Among Key Areas on Administration's Chopping Block
February 6, 2008 -- WASHINGTON – United States Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), both members of the Senate Budget Committee, today assailed President Bush’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposal for its drastic cuts in state and local homeland security funding that is critical to high-threat, high-population states like New Jersey. The Senators’ analysis of the homeland security portion of the president’s budget shows deep cuts in areas of homeland security that would disproportionately affect the Garden State, including first responders, ports, transit and infrastructure, as well as health assistance for 9/11 responders.

“With our concentrated population and miles of critical infrastructure, our state needs a much stronger investment in these security programs than this president is willing to make,” said Senator Menendez. “We have one of the busiest ports in the nation, we have major bridges, tunnels and highways, and we have first responders who may be called to respond to attacks not only here but potentially in New York as well – those are all areas that the president has put on the chopping block. We also have heroes of 9/11 who inhaled the toxic air around Ground Zero but are seeing a diminished commitment to their health by this administration. For a president who has consistently invoked the terrorist threats to justify a host of policies, these deep cuts represent a pre-9/11 mentality. And with al Qaeda allowed to regroup in a safe zone along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, these cuts make even less sense.”

“President Bush’s proposed budget would make New Jersey less secure – it’s that simple. New Jersey is home to the most dangerous two miles in America for terrorism, according to the FBI, and some of the nation’s busiest airports, seaports, rail lines and roadways. I will fight for sufficient homeland security funds for New Jersey’s first responders, transit systems and infrastructure. We must ensure homeland security funds are risk-based so we can better protect ourselves from a possible terrorist attack,” said Senator Lautenberg.

President Bush's proposed budget cuts homeland security funding to states and localities by $2 billion, from $4.2 billion to $2.2 billion – a 48% cut from this year’s funding. That includes a slashing of funding for port security grants in half and a cut of state homeland security grants by almost 80%.

Under the budget, the successful COPS program that has added nearly 5,000 police officers and sheriffs to New Jersey’s streets and sent more than $350 million to New Jersey would be eliminated. Eliminating COPS also means that $205 million Congress provided for critical law enforcement technologies and interoperable communications would be gone. In addition, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants program, which support a wide range of law enforcement activities and help local law enforcement partner with state and federal agencies, would be eliminated. Last year, New Jersey received $2.5 million in Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding and $554,000 in COPS funding.

Grants for firefighters, which provided New Jersey firefighters more than $11 million last year, would be cut by 60% and infrastructure protection spending would be slashed in half.

Furthermore, with an approximately 8,000 New Jersey residents who may require assistance for medical and health problems because of their work near the World Trade Center site after 9/11, the budget cuts funding for screening and treatment for first responders and others exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center by 77%.

The grossly inadequate Bush budget comes less than 6 months after the president signed a law implementing the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations, which calls for much higher funding levels of key programs designed to give states and localities the tools to protect themselves from threats and future unforeseen attacks.

It also comes out just days after the Department of Homeland Security announced increased funding for transportation security grants in FY 2008 due to higher appropriation levels from Congress.


v Cuts Infrastructure Protection in Half. Despite the ongoing risks that our nation’s top targets face and the need to protect communities surrounding chemical plants, major airports, railways, and ports, the president’s budget for next year would cut funding for critical infrastructure in half, to $400 million from over $850 million.

v Backtracks on Funding for Our Nation’s Ports. This year marks the first year that our nation’s ports will receive the level of funding they say we need to make needed security improvements. Despite this important step, the president’s budget would cut port security grants for next year in half to $210 million. Last year, along with New York, New Jersey received more than $42 million in port security grants.

v Undermines Transit Security. The administration continues to undermine our nation’s public transit and rail security needs. After Congress dramatically increased funding to $400 million for this year to neglected security programs, the president’s budget would provide only $175 million, a 56% cut. New Jersey benefited from $98 million in federal transit funding with New York and Connecticut last year.

v Slashes Funding for 9/11 Health Monitoring. The budget cuts funding for screening and treatment for first responders and others exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center by 77%, from $109 million this year to $25 million. Some 8,000 New Jersey residents may require assistance for medical and health problems because of their work near the site.

v Makes Deep Cuts to Grants to States and First Responders. Once again, the Bush administration takes aim at federal funding that to our states and first responders. Homeland security grants to states that provide millions to our first responders would be cut by almost 80%. Last year, these grants were funded at $950 million. However, the president’s budget slashes their funding to only $300 million for next year. These grants are integral to New Jersey’s homeland security efforts and provided the state with $14 million last year alone.

v Eliminates Key Funding for Police Officers. The successful COPS program that has added nearly 5,000 police officers and sheriffs to New Jersey’s streets and sent more than $350 million to New Jersey is eliminated. Last year, the COPS program received $587 million, including $205 million for law enforcement technologies and interoperable communications. COPS provided New Jersey $554,000 last year. None of this funding would be available under the president’s budget.

v State and Local Law Enforcement Left Fending for Themselves. Funding for state and local law enforcement assistance, including Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, violent gang and crime reduction programs and offender reentry funding, is cut more than 55%, from $908 million to $404 million. New Jersey could lose over $6 million in funds that help our communities prevent crime and improve the criminal justice system.

v Cuts Back Funding to Firefighters. The budget would cut funding for firefighters by 60% and would eliminate grants that help fire departments provide overtime and hire new firefighters. More than 100 New Jersey fire departments received over $11.5 million in these grants last year.

v Eliminates Funding for Interoperable Communications. The budget eliminates dedicated funding for interoperable communications for state and local governments, a key element of the 9/11 Implementation Act. The administration has already delayed the distribution of these important funds; under this budget, they would receive almost nothing next year.

v Underfunds Urban Area Security Initiative. The budget calls for a less than 1% increase in the urban areas security grants, the only strictly risk-based homeland security program designed to help high-threat, urban areas be adequately prepared for and to respond to threats.

v Continues Controversial Security Funding Program to Trucking Industry Lobbyists. The president again proposes $8 million for the Highway Watch program, which is administered by trucking industry lobbyists as a training program to train truck drivers on anti-terrorism awareness. Last year, a DHS Inspector General audit requested by Senator Lautenberg found that more funding was spent by this lobbyist group on marketing and overhead than actually training truck drivers.

v Increases Tax on Airline Travelers. While the budget provides a $515 billion increase for the Pentagon, the president proposes multi-year tax increases on airline travelers. This year’s budget proposal would increase security fees paid by airline travelers by 20%, to $3.00, each time they board a plane (up to $6.00 per flight). ..more.. by Source: Senator Frank Lautenberg

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