“President Obama today unveiled the details of his budget for Fiscal Year 2010.
On balance, this budget signals a welcome shift from the misplaced priorities of the previous Administration. There are a number of noteworthy provisions in this budget proposal:
- A down payment of $635 billion to begin major reform of our healthcare system;
- Tax cuts for 12.6 million California families;
- Laying the groundwork for comprehensive action on climate change;
- Investments in infrastructure modernization, including funding for high-speed rail and the construction of a national smart grid;
- Increased funding for students, teachers, and schools;
- Lifting the Tiahrt restrictions on the sharing of ATF gun trace data with State, local and tribal law enforcement or prosecutors; and
- Steps to help rebuild America’s image abroad by boosting foreign assistance and terminating the controversial Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program.
Over the next days and weeks, more work needs to be done to fully analyze the budget and its impact on all Americans.
However, I am deeply disappointed and concerned that the President has decided to make several programmatic cuts that would be detrimental to California, including:
- The zeroing out of SCAAP, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program;
- Real cuts to hazardous fuel reduction, at a time when the threat of catastrophic forest fires in the West is only growing;
- No funding for rail safety grants, which means no funds for positive-train control; and
- The elimination of the Pacific Coast salmon fund, at a time when California and Oregon salmon fisheries have been closed for the second year in a row.
I look forward to working with my colleagues during the annual appropriations process to address some of these shortfalls, within the budgetary spending constraints approved by Congress.”
Following is preliminary analysis on how this proposed budget might affect just a few of California’s priorities:
SCAAP (State Criminal Alien Assistance Program):
The President’s budget zeroes out SCAAP funding for FY10, despite the fact that the program is currently funded at $400 million for FY09 – as restored by Congress after President Bush had zeroed out the program for seven years in a row.
California is home to approximately 32 percent of the nation’s illegal immigrants and spent over $960 million in 2008 alone to house these criminal aliens. However, in 2008 the California State government only received approximately $118 million in SCAAP funding. The State of California is therefore being reimbursed for only 12 percent of its actual costs to incarcerate illegal criminal aliens.
“Immigration is a total federal responsibility. By failing to reimburse states and local governments for the cost of incarcerating criminal aliens, the federal government deprives communities of critical funding for public safety services. We cannot afford to let our public safety services crumble under the weight of our immigration policies, especially during this time of economic uncertainty. I am committed to restoring the funding for this essential program,” Senator Feinstein said.
Hazardous fuels reduction
The President’s budget provides $315 million for hazardous fuels reduction for FY10. This is a cut of $13 million or 4 percent, down from the enacted FY09 level of $328 million.
California has been particularly hard-hit by wildfires in recent years, and remains vulnerable because of extended drought. Last year in California, wildfires burned 2.1 million acres, destroyed 511 homes or businesses, and caused or contributed to 15 fatalities – and insurers are paying losses that are expected to eventually reach at least $1.6 billion. This year’s fire risk is compounded by a thin Sierra snowpack, an early heat wave and an abundance of dry vegetation.
“It is incredibly short-sighted to cut funding for hazardous fuels reduction at a time when the risk of catastrophic wildfires is as high as it's ever been. There's a major wildfire burning out of control right now in Santa Barbara. It has destroyed at least a dozen homes, forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, and put three Ventura County firefighters in a burn center, in serious condition. This budget recognizes the clear danger of wildfires by increasing funding for firefighting. But it makes no sense, at the same time, to slash funding for this critical fire-prevention program,” Senator Feinstein said.
Cal-Fed and other California Water Priorities
- Cal-Fed is funded at $31 million for the Bureau of Reclamation, which is $9 million less than the FY’09 funding level. Senator Feinstein will again work to increase to $40 million as she has in previous years.
- The San Joaquin River Restoration Fund is funded at $15.9 million, which is in accordance with the funding provisions authorized by the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act (P.L. 111-11).
Senator Feinstein was the lead sponsor of legislation recently enacted by Congress to implement the historic San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement. The settlement has two goals: to restore the river into a living river in good condition, including a self-sustaining salmon fishery; and to provide water certainty so that the needs of the agricultural, environmental and farming communities can all be sustained with minimal adverse impacts.
“The situation in California is dire. We have unemployment rates of up to 40 percent in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley, which is only exacerbated by the drought. Farmers who once tended the lands known as ‘America’s breadbasket’ are now themselves standing in bread lines. Top soil blown off from fallowed lands has created dust storms so massive that they have closed down Interstate 5 on windy days. Some farms are picking up and moving their operations to Mexico. Nearly 85,000 acres of farmland have essentially migrated south as a result of the drought and labor shortages, which is a serious blow to the California economy,” Senator Feinstein said. “That’s why I intend to seek additional funding for Cal-Fed to be consistent with previous funding levels of approximately $40 million for the Bureau of Reclamation.”
- High speed rail: The budget proposal includes $1 billion for high speed rail and intercity rail, requiring a 20 percent local match.
In November 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, the high-speed rail bond measure. The federal funding in the budget is in addition to the $8 billion in competitive grant funding provided in the stimulus package, for which California is eligible to compete. Senator Feinstein has been a long-time proponent of bringing high-speed rail to California.
“California will likely be well-qualified to compete for the $1 billion in additional high-speed rail funding proposed in the President’s FY10 budget. Last week, Transportation Secretary LaHood publicly testified that California is ‘far and away ahead of any place in the country’ and ‘at the top of the list’ when it comes to stimulus funding for high-speed rail, and that the State has done virtually all of the work necessary to secure a federal grant,” Senator Feinstein said. “This budget proposal represents one more step forward in making the high-speed rail spine down the center of California a reality.”
- No funding for the Rail Safety Technology Grants, authorized at $50 million in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, to help commuter rail systems implement Positive Train control.
Senator Feinstein was a lead advocate of legislation to require mandatory collision-avoidance systems on America’s major passenger, commuter and freight lines, in the wake of the deadly Metrolink crash near Los Angeles.
“California has thousands of miles of track where passenger and freight trains share the same track, headed in opposite directions – with nothing but the engineer and signal lights to prevent collisions. We saw in Chatsworth just how dangerous this situation can be,” Senator Feinstein said. “I’m very disappointed that the President’s budget fails to include federal funding to help install collision-avoidance technology on America’s railways.”
- Title I Early Education: The President’s FY10 budget will provide $500 million for new Title I Early Childhood Education Grants. These grants to states will provide matching grants to Title I schools that agree to invest stimulus funds in early childhood education. Grants would be used to expand or create preschool programs serving low-income children. Title I funds help schools educate over 12.5 million low-income children, including about 3 million in California.
- Pell Grants: The President’s budget will increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,550 per student for the 2010-2011 school year, up from the FY09 level of $4,850 per student. California has more than 625,000 students that rely on Pell Grants to help cover the increasing cost of a college education.
The President’s budget will provide $34.175 billion for the National Institutes of Health, including $5.15 billion for the National Cancer Institute.
“Biomedical research is important to California and to the nation. After an Administration that flat funded the NIH, I am pleased that this budget renews our commitment to medical research and finding cures and treatments of serious illnesses,” Senator Feinstein said.
The Pacific Salmon Recovery Fund:
This fund has been zeroed out in the FY10, and it will be replaced with a new program within the National Marine Fisheries Service to provide grants to recover all threatened and endangered marine species, including Pacific coastal salmon. Last year, the program was funded at $80 million, of which California received $9.5 million.
“The collapse of the salmon fisheries off of the West Coast for the second year in a row highlights the importance of this recovery fund. I am committed to working with my colleagues on the West Coast to restoring pacific salmon populations and also bolstering the maritime industries and tribal cultures and local economies that they support,” Senator Feinstein said. “The recent federal disaster declaration by Secretary Locke will bring desperately needed relief to the fishing communities that have been devastated by the salmon collapse. But at the same time, we must continue to focus our long-term efforts on a serious recovery of the salmon population.”