(Host) Congress is considering a plan to drastically cut homeland security funds for many small states. The final decision could mean a potential loss of tens of millions of dollars for Vermont.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) At issue is a provision that’s included in most appropriations bills, known as the “small state minimum.” This ensures that even the smallest of states will receive funds from most federal programs; often the smaller states receive a half percent of the total amount of money that’s being allocated.
As Congress considers a new appropriation for homeland security, a number of senators from larger states like New York and California are urging their colleagues to drop the small state minimum for this bill. They argue that the threat of a terrorist attack is largest in the big states and that they need the funds that are currently being diverted to many smaller states.
Senator Patrick Leahy, who’s a member of the Appropriations Committee, is fighting the effort to eliminate the small state minimum:
(Leahy) “We’re all in this together. If you have terrorists who are starting in a plane in Maine, for example, to hit a building in New York City, you don’t say only New York City faces a threat. You’ve got to have it all the way. Each state has different needs. We’re along the northern border, which creates problems of itself because of all the various sects and cells that there are in Canada. We’ve got a nuclear power plant.”
(Kinzel) In the last few years, Vermont has received roughly $40 million in homeland security funds. Public Safety commissioner Kerry Sleeper says the vast majority of this money has been used to provide critical equipment for first responders throughout the state. Sleeper says this equipment probably wouldn’t be available without the federal funds:
(Sleeper) “Vermont, on the other hand, has to hold bake sales in order to sustain fire departments and emergency squads but yet we expect those same fire departments and emergency squads to respond to a potential critical incident that may involve some sort of a WMD component. So we need that funding to build that capacity to bring that expertise up to a level that’s capable of responding.”
(Kinzel) Sleeper says it’s critical to remember that most of the equipment that’s been purchased with homeland security money is being used every day in Vermont:
(Sleeper) “It’s areas like communication that’s been essential so that they all have working radios, they can talk to each other. It’s pieces of equipment that aid firefighters and EMS technicians every day that they respond to a call.”
(Kinzel) Sleeper says Congress will be sending a terrible message to small, rural states if it decides to eliminate the small state minimum in this legislation.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.