Senate OKs homeland security plan

Funding formula makes 40 percent of grant money available to all states

July 13, 2005|By Cynthia H. Cho | Cynthia H. Cho,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Following a lengthy debate that set larger states against smaller ones, the Senate approved yesterday a new funding formula for grants to state and local law-enforcement agencies that would respond to terrorist attacks.

In a 71-26 vote, senators supported a proposal that increased the amount of money available to all states, rather than provide additional funds primarily to larger states that are perceived to be more likely terrorist targets.

In legislation to appropriate $31.9 billion for the Department of Homeland Security in the 2006 fiscal year, the Bush administration had proposed that 30 percent of the almost $2 billion in grants for first responders - such as police, fire and paramedic units - be distributed evenly to all states, with the remaining funds allocated based on an assessment of risk.

But an amendment sponsored by Sens. Susan M. Collins, a Maine Republican, and Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, increased the funding level guaranteed to all states, regardless of size or risk of terrorism, to 40 percent of the total.

Meanwhile, Democrats, including New York Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, pushed yesterday to add $1 billion for transit and rail security to a Homeland Security spending bill, calling the rails the "terrorist target of choice."

Democrats have complained that the Bush administration and federal Homeland Security officials haven't done enough to address rail security and said the train bombings last week in London and last year in Madrid should serve as a wake-up call.

During the debate on the spending formula, Collins, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate's Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, emphasized that if states were not given adequate amounts of guaranteed funding, they could not plan or implement long-term security projects.

Large-state senators, supporting a proposal by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, countered that domestic security funding should be based mainly on studies that examined the likely risks for each state. Their provision called for 13 percent of the funding to be guaranteed, with the remaining 87 percent determined by risk analysis.

They argued that states such as California and New York are home to most of the major metropolitan areas in the country that are, or have been, targets of terrorism. It is these areas that need more funding, the senators contended.

"It seems patently unfair to say that states that might have a threat, but don't have a large and tangible repeated threat week after week, should get more money on a per capita basis," Schumer said.

But the Feinstein-Cornyn amendment failed, 65-32.

The House version of the Homeland Security appropriations bill contains a provision giving additional funding to larger states with a higher risk of attack. Differences will be worked out in a conference committee once the Senate bill is passed.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Newsday contributed to this article.

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