Senate Approves Amendment to FY’08 Supplemental Appropriations Bill to Fund Domestic Priorities Important to California
May 22 2008
Washington, DC – The Senate today approved an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 supplemental appropriations bill, which provides emergency funding for a number of domestic priorities important to California, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced.
The bill includes:
- $400 million for a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Program;
- $450 million for U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department firefighting and fire rehabilitation efforts;
- $490 Million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program; and
- Extends unemployment benefits by 13 weeks for all workers nationwide and provides an additional 13 weeks for workers in high-unemployment states, like California.
One-Year Extension of Secure Rural Schools Program: $400 Million
The bill includes an additional $400 million to provide a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act.
“This is good news for rural counties in California and across the country that are facing serious budget shortfalls. The $400 million approved today for the Secure Rural Schools Program will help prevent California rural school districts from being forced to lay off more than 900 teachers and educational staff, close schools, or cut important educational programs. This will benefit nearly three million California school children,” Senator Feinstein said. “Rural counties depend on this program for their schools and road improvement projects. So, this one-year extension would help give these communities some breathing room.”
California’s rural counties received a total of $69 million under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act last year.
- Siskiyou County received $9.58 million;
- Trinity County: $7.99 million;
- Plumas County: $7.5 million;
- Shasta County: $4.15 million; and
- Lassen County: $4.01 million.
This emergency funding will help prevent the layoff of more than 900 teachers, school administrators and educational staff in California alone – and a total of nearly 7,000 teachers and staff nationwide.
Byrne/JAG Program: $490 Million
The bill includes an additional $490 million for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant. This emergency funding would restore funding cut last year. The Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2008 included $660 million for the Byrne/JAG program. Under threat of a Presidential veto, the funding was slashed last year by 70 percent, to $170 million, in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
If this funding is not restored, important anti-drug and anti-gang task forces across the United States will be in jeopardy. California would see its funding this year slashed to $11 million this year, down from $33 million last year. For California, that means at least 22 state and local law-enforcement task forces will go out of business, and 100 law-enforcement officers would be laid off on July 1.
“Today, the Senate took a huge step toward ensuring the safety of our communities by agreeing to $490 million in additional funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program contained in the Supplemental,” Senator Feinstein said.
“This program is critical to public safety 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. With violent crime on the rise, now is the time to ensure that law-enforcement in America is well-funded, not cut to the bone. Without these additional funds, at least 22 law enforcement task forces in California would have been shut down on July 1, 2008, with more to follow. And the Senate’s action today is the first step at ensuring that won’t happen.”
In California last year, Byrne Grants funded drug and gang task forces that:
- Arrested 14,860 offenders, 8,900 of whom had drug and violent crime convictions;
- Seized 2,130 weapons and $18 million in currency; and
- Rescued 1,482 children from the scenes of narcotics crimes, including meth labs.
Byrne Grants also helped fund California’s Marijuana Suppression Program, which last year arrested 533 offenders – 353 of whom were convicted of marijuana-related charges – and seized nearly 400 weapons and more than $4.5 million in currency and assets
The grants are administered by the U.S. Justice Department, with 60 percent of the funds going to state agencies and 40 percent set aside for distribution to local governments. The Byrne Grants program provides one of the only sources of federal funds for sheriffs and police chiefs in many smaller and rural towns and counties.
Firefighting and Fire Rehabilitation: $450 Million
The domestic spending provision of the Supplemental includes an additional $450 million for U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department firefighting and fire rehabilitation efforts. The funding would bring federal wildfire funding efforts in line with federal spending on firefighting in recent years.
It would be spent as follows:
- $350 million for the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department to fight wildfires; and
- $100 million to restore and rehabilitate federal lands scorched by wildfires; these efforts will involve replanting new trees and stabilizing soils to reduce the risk of mudslides in burn areas.
“Wildfires are a direct threat to lives and property in California. A major wildfire is today burning out of control in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and there will be more such fires in what officials say will be another long and challenging fire season,” Senator Feinstein said.
“The dangers facing California cannot be overstated – officials tell me that several fire indicators are worse than at any point in the 27-year recorded history of such data. In the past decade, in Southern California alone, wildfires have killed more than 34 people and consumed over 2.3 million acres, and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.
So, this new funding is vital to our efforts to fight catastrophic wildfires. I want to express my gratitude to my colleagues for voting for it.”
With global warming and dry fire seasons, catastrophic wildfires are becoming an increasing threat, particularly in the Western United States.
In 2006, more than 9.8 million acres were burned by wildfires nationwide, the greatest damage from wildfires in 48 years of reporting. In Fiscal Year 2006, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior spent nearly $1.93 billion on firefighting efforts.
In 2007, more than 9.3 million acres were burned by wildfires nationwide. In Fiscal Year 2007, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior spent more than $1.8 billion fighting wildfires.
Wildfires are especially dangerous in California. In 2003 and 2007, massive wildfires in California burned 1.25 million acres, destroyed 6,000 structures, and killed 34 people.
Extending Unemployment Benefits
The bill also extends unemployment benefits by 13 weeks for all workers nationwide and provides an additional 13 weeks for workers in high-unemployment states. In California, the unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, which is significantly higher than the national average of 5 percent.
“In the last year alone, about 500,000 unemployed workers in California have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits,” Senator Feinstein said. “Unemployment benefits are more important than ever today – given the economic slowdown and the declining job market. Families are hurting, and this emergency extension of unemployment insurance benefits will provide some much needed relief to those who need it most.”