Show DC The Money (Again & Again)
I'm getting SO TIRED of hearing carping from the Dems and the "leadership" of DC (Motto: 911...please hold) about the use of Homeland Security funds being used to provide security for the inauguration. Sick because 95% of the carping out there ignores several facts.
The Federal Government pays an annual lease to the District for the space they use, the arrangements needed, and so on. So it's not like the Federal Government is forcing the District to pay for everything the Feds do. In fact, according to a froth-mouthed Post story, total payments to the District from the Federal Government, including various reimbursements, will total $2.51 billion this fiscal year. Now granted, that includes some off-budget stuff, but still....that's a lot of cash. Let's contrast that with the 2005 budget for DC. The budget shows $6.25 billion in spending. So right off the bat, the Federal Government is providing about 40% of the District's budget in one form or another.
So it's not like the District is blindsided when it comes to this. In fact, part of the stated purpose of the federal funds paid to the District is specifically for things like this...security and other related-type items stemming from the Federal Government being here (Marion "Bitch Set Me Up" Barry calling this an unfunded mandate on the radio this morning is especially rich.). Now while it's true traditionally the District had been reimbursed for inaugural festivities, to me that just says the tradition was wrong. What's happening here is the District is trying to get double-paid for something and is complaining when the free lunch ends.
The next thing to look at is a matter of allocation. Homeland Security grants are generally purpose-driven; earmarked for a specific use. For instance, DHS may send a few million to New York for the deployment of patrol boats. By law, the city HAS to spend that money on patrol boats...they can't buy fire trucks with it. Last year DHS sent out $10 billion in grants alone. The issue (as reported earlier by CNN is that some cities receiving such grants are misspending them...bowing to local politics instead of the purpose of the grant.
Now not having a copy of the accounting statement concerning how DC spent the DHS funds received (thank you, transparent government), I can only speculate that DHS sent purpose grants to DC, DC complained that they didn't have the funds to provide security for the Inauguration (more on that in a minute), and DHS said "OK, we'll release the purpose requirement on those funds and you can use them for general (to use the lingo) "disaster preparedness, prevention, response and recovery." In fact, DHS oversight of funds is itself a bit of a controversy, with the money going to cities but the actual uses of it not followed up on, or the uses themselves being mismatched with actual vulnerabilities of the recipient. One story (not available online, alas) has to do with a small county in the midwest receiving a bunch of money for a mobile disaster response unit...for a county of, like, 1,000 people. I believe the sheriff uses it for his office.
That aside, it doesn't seem all that unreasonable to me to look at DHS funds, conclude they were misallocated in light of current circumstances, and release the recipient from the legal obligation of how to spend them.
But all of this floats over the main point...if DC is receiving a buttload of money from the Feds in general and DHS in particular, and those funds are specifically to remiburse the District for the hassle of having the Feds as a tenant...where is that money now? You can't tell me that the over $2 billion the Feds pay is spent by the District solely on Federal Government things. I am not Montel Williams, after all. It's being used as a subsidy for District residents, plain and simple. So if the District is spending that money on building charter schools instead of on its stated purpose of providing security and support for Federal functions, how is that Bush's fault? The District has Home Rule. So if people want to complain about a relatively paltry amount of DHS grant money being used to pay for security, it follows that said people would support revocation of Home Rule.
So with all that said, to me it seems using DHS money to secure the Inauguration is PRECISELY the reason such funds are made available in the first place. It also says that if DC is complaining about it, there is something wrong with the way they are using the huge amount of money they already receive from the Federal Government, and it opens up a lot of uncomfortable questions for the District. Questions which frankly aren't new.
Posted by John Tant at January 20, 2005 08:58 AM
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