2004-02-04 / Seniors

Bush Budget Priority In

Homeland Security, Local Pols Have Mixed Reaction
by john toscano


Congressmembers Anthony Weiner and Carolyn Maloney, above, led the attack, charging the president gave the city far less than was requested for homeland security and also cut funds to hire more cops.Congressmembers Anthony Weiner and Carolyn Maloney, above, led the attack, charging the president gave the city far less than was requested for homeland security and also cut funds to hire more cops.

Despite President George W. Bush’s assertions that his $2.4 trillion budget "sets clear priorities" such as winning the war on terror and protecting the homeland, Queens congressmembers attacked it for shortchanging New York City in those areas.

Congressmembers Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) and Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) led the attack, charging the president gave the city far less than was requested for homeland security and also cut funds to hire more cops.

The budget, released on Monday, also revealed that the $400 billion that was voted to cover the new Medicare drug prescription law over the next 10 years will actually cost $534 billion, according to the Bush spending plan.

This miscalculation has Democrats fuming, as was to be expected, but it also has conservative Republicans in a stew because their party leaders won their votes for the Medicare law with the promise that the program was capped at the $400 billion figure.

This could lead to efforts to amend the law after the elections next year whether or not the Democrats elect the next president or make gains in the effort to control congress.

But the president stuck to his guns on the Medicare law he signed late last year, which he expects will help him get senior citizen votes in November.

After it was revealed that the new price tag on the program was $134 billion more than previously stated, the president declared:

"The Medicare reform we did is good reform, and fulfills a longstanding promise to our seniors. Congress is now going to have to work with us to make sure that we set priorities and are fiscally wise with the taxpayer’s money."

Democrats in congress were already planning a campaign to change certain sections of the law. Congressmember Joseph Crowley had charged huge sums from the GOP Medicare program were going to HMOs and the pharmaceutical industry. Certainly this phase of the battle will now be pursued with greater intensity and hopefully might draw the support of conservative Republicans. The bill passed by only five votes in the House, 220 to 215, and there was much arm-twisting done by Republican leaders to bring reluctant conservatives into the "yea" column.

In the budget, Weiner said, New York City will receive $295 million less than requested by the city under the High Threat Density Urban Area Grants program.

Weiner said, "They have taken a tightly targeted program and made [it] into a run-of-the-mill pork barrel program. If we are at the point where the terrorists are targeting the Charlotte Raptor Museum, or whatever it is they have down there, then we are in big trouble. That was not what this program was intended for."

Weiner complained that the budget dispenses high threat funding to 50 cities when it should go to no more than 15. Although the president increased these funds from $725 million to more than $1.4 billion, the city will get $295 million less than was requested.

Meanwhile, Weiner criticized Mayor Michael Bloomberg for saying he was satisfied with what the president allocated for homeland security.

"The mayor just doesn’t get it," said Weiner, who may be running for mayor next year. "More funding is a start, but the only way it will make a real difference if we limit the number of cities eligible to get it."

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney saw the spending plan as good news and bad news.

"The good news is that the president finally wants to send money where the threat is," she said. "The bad news is that he proposes to cut overall funding for first responders."

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) also saw the homeland security allotment as a step in the right direction. "New York is getting more, but funds going to Cincinnati and St. Paul smacks of politics. If federal money is available it should be coming to New York City and not New York state, which takes 20 percent of it," Vallone said.

Weiner also complained that New York City loses $10.4 million to hire cops under the Community Oriented Policing Services program, loses another $12 million under the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program and loses $18 million under a program used to defray the costs incurred by the city to incarcerate illegal aliens who break the law.


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