By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
n February 5, 2008, the administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget proposal to Congress. Unfortunately, as in years past, the budget proposal included sweeping cuts to law enforcement assistance programs.
As outlined in the chart below, in total, the administration’s proposed budget slashes just over $1.1 billion from existing law enforcement assistance and other anticrime programs. This is a 45 percent cut when compared with FY 2008 funding levels (see table below).
In its budget, the administration proposed two new initiatives: the Violent Crime Reduction Partnership Initiative (VCRPI) and the Byrne Public Safety and Protection Program (BPSP). The VCRPI is intended to help communities suffering from high rates of violent crime by forming and developing effective multijurisdictional law enforcement partnerships between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The BPSP would consolidate several existing programs to fund programs that intend to reduce violent crime, address substance abuse, clean up methamphetamine labs, promote law enforcement information-sharing efforts, and improve services to victims of crime. Unfortunately, the proposed funding levels for these new programs do little to offset the massive reductions elsewhere in the budget.
In addition to the proposed reductions at the Department of Justice, the administration has targeted key programs at the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, the administration has proposed reducing funding for critical state, tribal, and local homeland security assistance programs by nearly $745 million. This is a 42 percent cut when compared with FY 2008 funding levels.
The president’s submission of his budget proposal represents the first step in the federal budget process. Over the next several weeks, the House and Senate Budget Committees will begin work on drafting the Congressional Budget Resolution. This nonbinding document serves as a statement of Congress’s priorities in the budget process. At the same time, the various subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin their efforts to craft the annual appropriation bills that fund the federal government.
Clearly, these proposed reductions would severely undermine the ability of state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies to protect communities from both crime and the threat of terrorism. Therefore, the IACP will be working closely with Congress to ensure that state, tribal, and local law enforcement assistance programs are fully funded in the
FY 2009 budget.
IACP and Senators Call for Restoration of Byrne-JAG Funds
On January 30, the IACP joined a group of key senators in a press conference to address the shortage of Byrne-JAG funds in the FY 2008 omnibus and to encourage lawmakers to add additional funds in a supplemental spending bill.
In the FY 2008 omnibus, which the president signed in late December, Byrne-JAG was funded at just $170 million, a 68 percent decrease compared with the FY 2007 level of $520 million. In response to this cut, the IACP and several members of Congress have been fighting to secure additional funding for state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies.
Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), and Joe Biden (D-Del.) have spearheaded this effort in the Senate and participated in the January 30 event. In the press conference, Senator Chambliss said, “If we’re serious about protecting our communities, keeping drugs off our streets, and preventing future crime, then we have to give our local law enforcement personnel the resources they need to carry out their duties.” Senator Feinstein continued, “This program is a pillar of law enforcement in California. It funds a broad range of law enforcement programs, from drug and gang task forces to programs that assist victims of crime, including children. I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that this funding is restored.”
These senators, along with 20 others, also circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter on February 1, calling for an additional $490 million in funding in a supplemental appropriations bill this year.
The IACP has also held meetings and briefings with many members of the House of Representatives and is encouraged by the response in that chamber. The IACP will continue to work with the House and Senate to restore funding for Byrne-JAG in a supplemental spending bill. ■