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Senate rejects bid to send more anti-terror funds to larger states
McClatchy Newspapers


July 13, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Senate took a major step toward guaranteeing that small and rural states continue to receive a sizable slice of homeland security spending by voting 65-32 Tuesday against a proposal that would have shifted the allocation to states that may be most at risk of terrorist attack.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., described the vote as a victory for pork-barrel politics that spread money where it wasn't urgently needed over a policy that focused spending on areas of the greatest need, such as California and New York.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that Feinstein's legislation would have taken at least $8 million from each of 43 states, including Maine, and given it instead to California, New York and other populous states.

The vote came after a daylong debate that pitted a handful of big and urban states with high-profile terrorist targets against small and rural states not often considered likely sites for terrorism.

With Feinstein as their champion, the big and urban states, notably California and New York, argued unsuccessfully that they are more at risk and therefore warranted more of the federal allocation for preventing and preparing for terrorism.

But small and rural states, championed by Collins, prevailed. Collins said small states needed to be ready even if terrorists look at New York, Washington or Los Angeles as primary targets.

She said small and rural states have targets that could be hit and a need to prepare first responders for any strike.

Collins went on the offensive, charging that those who would get more money under Feinstein's proposal would probably only waste it. She frequently noted that New Jersey used some of its anti-terrorism money to air-condition its garbage trucks and the District of Columbia used some of its terrorism money to buy leather jackets for its first responders.

Collins also made a blunt appeal to senators from states that would get less money if the Feinstein proposal passed. North Carolina, Collins pointed out, would drop from $15 million, and Florida from $30 million, to $2.4 million each.

A handful of states - California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois among them - would have gotten a bigger payout from the federal government if Feinstein had prevailed in her argument that those states are the most likely to be hit by terrorists.

"For once, I'm on the same note as the administration," Feinstein said, pointing out that President Bush favored a formula for dividing the money that would favor large states and choice urban sites.

"Let's give on the basis of risk, threat and vulnerability," Feinstein told the Senate. "Al Qaeda and its allies do not attack based on a formula."

As an argument for putting more money into the protection of big cities, she cited last week's bombings in London.

"The effectiveness of the British response to these terrible attacks," she said, "illustrate that they put their resources where the risk was - in London."

Feinstein got help from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who declared in a letter: "The effective strategy to secure our nation must apply risk-based analyses to manage the threat from terrorism."

The current method, which spreads federal money among the states, according to the governors, does "not give full consideration to our states' urban population centers, numerous critical infrastructure assets, hundreds of miles of coastland, maritime ports, and large international borders."

While the amount of money in dispute has yet to be decided, it figures to be somewhere between the $1.9 billion sought by Bush and the $2.9 billion authorized by the Senate.

Collins and her co-sponsor, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., wanted to establish a formula that about 70 percent of the money allocated by the federal government go out to states on the basis of their risk to terrorism, as assessed by the Department of Homeland Security.

A small-state Democrat defended the advantage to small states.

"For many states, this would be all the funding they would get from the federal government for homeland security," said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., noting that "small and rural states need to be ready to deal with terrorist attacks."

Feinstein could barely mask her skepticism that Nebraska and other small states are as needy for anti-terrorism funds as California, New York and a few other states with high-profile targets.

The California senator said she reflected the position of the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. That panel urged the nation to protect its vulnerable targets.

Feinstein and her principal co-sponsors, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., wanted to raise the formula to 87 percent on the basis of risk and the rest on a system that guarantees money to every state.

Feinstein pointed out that her plan would provide that Wyoming gets 27.8 cents for each citizen, while New York and California, respectively, would get $15.54 and $8.05.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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