Govs Press For Homeland Security Funds
By Greg McDonald, Senior Writer
The nation's governors asked the federal government Wednesday (4/10) for more anti-terrorism dollars, telling the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee that states can't handle the estimated first-year cost of at least $5 billion to implement post-September 11 security programs on their own.
"This great challenge of defending the homeland comes at a time when governors are tightening belts in order to balance their state budget," Michigan Gov. John Engler told the committee. Engler, who chairs the National Governors Association (NGA), said states are facing a projected $40 billion shortfall in revenue this year.
Engler's concern was echoed by fellow governors Roy Barnes of Georgia and Gary Locke of Washington. They testified that the states stand ready to do everything possible to ensure public safety, but adequate funding is not readily available for many of them.
"We understand the difficult task of developing a homeland security strategy and meeting the needs of our great nation during this time...But we need Congress' and the administration's assistance to ensure we have the authority and the funding to succeed," Locke said.
Congress added $1 billion to this year's defense supplemental spending bill to help states beef up their public health preparedness programs against the threat of bioterrorism. Congress also approved an additional $243 million in law enforcement anti-terrorism grants to be administered through the Justice Department's Office of Domestic Preparedness.
But a recent government audit found that only $102 million of that funding has been released, according to a report in the Washington Post (4/9).
Another $327 million in supplemental funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency is also in the pipeline for anti-terrorism efforts, but it's unclear how much of that money will end up in state hands. In addition, $3.5 billion has been proposed for 2003 to help states with anti-terrorism measures mandated by the federal government or approved by state legislatures. But that won't help the states pay for this year's efforts, which the NGA estimates will range from $5 billion to $7 billion.
"Dealing with the threat of terrorism is a complex challenge ...It has and will require significant costs human and fiscal at every level of government," Gov. Barnes told the committee.