Union disputes Ivan damage to Eglin Federal Prison Camp




"Our understanding of it is that, yes, there's some damage there, but it's not debilitating damage," McFaul said. "To us the bigger picture is the future of the facility."
Closing the minimum-security camp would raise costs for the Air Force because it uses low-cost inmate labor, mainly for road and grounds maintenance, McFaul said.
Eglin, which covers 724 square miles of the Florida Panhandle, is the Air Force's center for developing and testing non-nuclear weapons and home to an F-15 fighter wing, the Navy's ordnance disposal school, an Army Ranger training camp and other military units.
Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Dan Dunne said most Eglin inmates are being kept at a prison in Mississippi because the storm damage is extensive and officials are still waiting for an assessment and repair estimate.
"We are considering a number of options regarding the future of the facility," Dunne said.
Local union president Bill Morris, who also is worried about 80 union employees would lose their jobs, specifically disputed the bureau's contention that three of five dormitories are unsafe.
"A few shingles blew off," Morris said. "There was no major roof damage. No structural damage at all."
He said returning so few inmates also has hindered Eglin's storm recovery. Dunne declined to comment on the union's criticism.
Eglin spokeswoman Lois Walsh said the base contracts for 253 inmates at an annual cost of $4.4 million, but the camp now provides only 90 prisoners.
Miller has invited Prisons Bureau Director Harley Lappin to tour the camp with him but has not yet received a reply, McFaul said.


http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/10839526.htm?1c

Posted on Mon, Feb. 07, 2005





U.S. Seeks Hike in Airline Passenger Fees

LARA JAKES JORDAN

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The White House asked for more money and employees to secure U.S. borders and proposed hiking airline passenger fees to cover some of the increases for homeland security.
Monday's $34.2 billion Homeland Security Department budget request for 2006 also proposes reorganizing state and local funding formulas to give the most money to high-risk areas.
The agency is among only a few that would be spared an overall spending cut next year. The administration proposal asks Congress for a 6.8 percent funding increase from current levels - on top of $6.9 billion required by law.
"We are safer, but we are not safe," Acting Homeland Security Secretary James Loy said, unveiling the budget plan.
The budget was released as Homeland Security secretary nominee Michael Chertoff was moving closer to Senate confirmation. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was to vote Monday night on his nomination.
The budget plan calls for a 10 percent increase - to $16 billion - in border and transportation security spending. It would add 210 new border patrol agents to fill gaps along the southwest border and coastal areas; step up border surveillance by $19.8 million; and install technology to help customs and border patrol agents detect weapons of mass destruction and prescreen cargo before ships reach U.S. ports.
Unions representing about 9,000 border patrol agents said the plan falls far short of doubling current staff levels, as promised by legislation approved last year. The 210 new employees would only replace about half of the agents who left the agency over the last year, said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
"It's simply not enough to keep up with the job that the American public expects us to do, and that we want to do," Bonner said. "We'd love to control the border, but we can't do it with the resources we have."
Loy said the agency had to consider "competing and other very important priorities."
Most of the department's spending hike would be paid by collecting $4.8 billion in fees - largely by adding $3 to the cost of airline tickets for passengers. Fees would increase in 2006 from $2.50 to $5.50 for each leg of a round-trip ticket, and from $5 to $8 for passengers making several stops on a one-way ticket.
The plan sparked an immediate protest from the commercial airlines.
"A tax on travelers is a tax on airlines," said James C. May, president and chief executive officer of the Air Transport Association. "We believe any new tax or fee raises ticket prices and the cost of airlines doing business."
The budget would cut $420 million, or 11 percent, from state and local coordination efforts. Of $3.6 billion set aside for grants, training programs and technical assistance for local and state first responders, $2 billion will be meted out on a risk and vulnerability priority. Loy said DHS so far has given $17 billion to state and local authorities, and "it is time for us to focus more on the actual threat, the risks intended to that threat, the vulnerabilities associated with that threat."
The budget also calls for adding a new assistant secretary for policy and planning, following recommendations set forth in several recent studies that criticized the department as lacking a clear focus.


http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2005/02/07/national/w164030S81.DTL

DHS Seeks Hike in Airline Passenger Fees
- By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer
Monday, February 7, 2005
(02-07) 18:53 PST Washington, DC (AP) --
The Department of Homeland Security is seeking money and employees to secure U.S. borders under President Bush's budget, while raising airline passenger fees, as a Senate panel endorsed a new leader for the agency.
Monday's $34.2 billion budget request for 2006 also proposes reorganizing state and local funding formulas to give the most money to high-risk areas.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, meanwhile, endorsed Michael Chertoff's nomination as the department's secretary, 14-0, with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., voting "present."
Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the full Senate could be asked as early as Tuesday for a confirmation vote and predicted Chertoff will be approved easily. He would succeed Tom Ridge, who resigned.
Levin voted "present" _ neither for or against the nomination _ in a mild protest for being denied Justice Department information about interrogation techniques on terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Chertoff headed the department's criminal division that led the terror investigation after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Homeland Security is among only a few agencies that would be spared an overall spending cut next year under Bush's budget. It asks Congress for a 6.8 percent funding increase for the department from current levels _ on top of $6.9 billion required by law.
"We are safer, but we are not safe," Acting Homeland Security Secretary James Loy said, unveiling the budget plan.
The budget plan calls for a 10 percent increase _ to $16 billion _ in border and transportation security spending. It would add 210 new border patrol agents to fill gaps along the southwest border and coastal areas; step up border surveillance by $19.8 million; and install technology to help customs and border patrol agents detect weapons of mass destruction and prescreen cargo before ships reach U.S. ports.
The plan falls far short of increasing the number of full-time border patrol agents by 2,000 annually for five years, as promised by an intelligence-gathering reform approved in December by President Bush. The 210 new jobs would only replace about half of the agents who left the agency over the last year, said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
"It's simply not enough to keep up with the job that the American public expects us to do, and that we want to do," Bonner said. "We'd love to control the border, but we can't do it with the resources we have."
Loy said the agency had to consider "competing and other very important priorities."
Most of the department's spending hike would be paid by collecting $4.8 billion in fees _ largely by adding $3 to the cost of airline tickets for passengers. Fees would increase in 2006 from $2.50 to $5.50 for each leg of a round-trip ticket, and from $5 to $8 for passengers making several stops on a one-way ticket.
The plan sparked an immediate protest from the commercial airlines.
"A tax on travelers is a tax on airlines," said James C. May, president and chief executive officer of the Air Transport Association. "We believe any new tax or fee raises ticket prices and the cost of airlines doing business."
The budget would cut $420 million, or 11 percent, from state and local coordination efforts. Of $3.6 billion set aside for grants, training programs and technical assistance for local and state first responders, $2 billion will be meted out on a risk and vulnerability priority. Loy said DHS so far has given $17 billion to state and local authorities, and "it is time for us to focus more on the actual threat, the risks intended to that threat, the vulnerabilities associated with that threat."
The budget also calls for adding a new assistant secretary for policy and planning, following recommendations set forth in several recent studies that criticized the department as lacking a clear focus.

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0208AZ-fedbudget08.html

State's funding at risk
Bush budget would rein in spending
Billy House
Republic Washington Bureau
Feb. 8, 2005 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - Arizona could lose almost $1 billion in federal funding over 10 years for Medicaid, the government health program for the poor, under changes in the $2.57 trillion budget President Bush proposed Monday.

In addition, the president's plan would pay for only 210 additional U.S. Border Patrol agents in 2006, not the 2,000 new agents authorized for next year as part of a bill passed by Congress in December that Bush signed into law.

And a $305 million federal program that helps states and counties in Arizona offset the costs of keeping undocumented immigrants behind prison bars would be eliminated altogether, a move that would force local taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Last year, the state of Arizona and 11 of 15 counties shared more than $9 million in State Criminal Alien Assistance Program dollars. Only Apache, Coconino, La Paz and Santa Cruz counties did not receive money. State officials got $6.8 million.

The budget document itself states that aid to Arizona for state and local programs will rise from an estimated $6.6 billion in this fiscal year to $7.1 billion in 2006, which would amount to 2.3 percent of the total state and local aid distributed nationally.

State officials on Monday were attempting to verify that overall increase. They said many programs that would get more federal money were likely to benefit from formula-driven aid tied to the state's population growth.

Overall, Bush's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 would cut spending on government programs outside of defense and national security by 0.7 percent. More than 150 governmentwide programs would be eliminated or cut deeply, ranging from funds to help communities hire more police to airport construction.

"It's a budget that focuses on results," Bush said after meeting with his Cabinet.
Reactions vary
The details released Monday prompted a range of reactions.

"I've got a better idea: roll back the tax breaks for richest Americans," said Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., who is on the House Appropriations Committee.

Pastor, as did Arizona's only other Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Raul Grijalva, warned that the Bush budget squanders trillions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthy, yet cuts billions in education, health care, housing and environmental programs.

But Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., called the plan "the best budget we've seen in years" because, he said, it begins to actually cut discretionary federal spending.

Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., called it a "modest, but welcome" reduction in spending.

"With the deficits that we're now running, I'm glad the president is coming over with a very austere budget," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Reuters reported. "I hope we in Congress have the courage to support it."

But Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, said she was concerned that the budget plan "slashes where we need to invest - in public safety, in border security and programs that help our families."

"I am gravely concerned that this proposal shifts the financial realities and responsibilities onto state budgets that cannot be stretched any further," Napolitano said. "We have to be careful that in an effort to appear to be fiscally sound, the federal government is not simply passing these costs directly to the states and to state taxpayers."
Medicaid an issue
Perhaps that argument will be made strongest in the president's planned changes for Medicaid, the federal government's health insurance program for the poor, disabled and senior citizens.

The Medicaid program is growing rapidly because health care inflation is running two to three times the general inflation rate, and the caseload has grown 33 percent over the past four years, including increases in elderly and disabled populations who are responsible for the majority of Medicaid spending.

Generally, the federal government picks up roughly two-thirds of the tab for Arizona and other states, and the states pay the rest.

Michael Leavitt, the Health and Human Services secretary, said the bulk - $40 billion of the $60 billion - of Medicaid spending the Bush administration expects to save over 10 years would come from ending "accounting gimmicks" states use to maximize their reimbursements.

But state and health care advocacy groups contend the president's plan simply would shift more of the costs onto states.

In Arizona's case, the estimate is that $998.3 million in federal Medicaid funding would be lost to the state over 10 years.

"The greatest damage will be done to the sickest, oldest and most vulnerable people now receiving health coverage through Medicaid - seniors in nursing homes, people with catastrophic and costly illnesses and millions of children," said a statement issued by Families USA, a national, non-profit and nonpartisan organization for health care consumers.

"We hope the administration and Congress will work with states to develop program efficiencies and other policies that can save both the states and federal government money, as opposed to shifting costs to the states through budget cuts, caps or other mechanisms," a statement from the National Governor's Association said.
Border security hit
Another area drawing scrutiny in Arizona is border security, as the president's plan calls for a 10 percent increase, to $16 billion, to border and transportation security, including installing more technology to help Customs and Border Patrol agents detect weapons of mass destruction.

The president's budget includes such additions as $20 million to acquire and replace aging Border Patrol aircraft, more than $39 million for a program that gives Mexican migrants apprehended at the border the option of being returned to the interior of Mexico, and proposes $1 million to keep in place the Arizona Border Control Initiative, a law enforcement effort spearheaded by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to curb illegal immigration.

But the budget also calls for just $36.9 million for the recruitment, hiring and training of just 210 new border agents. The intelligence bill approved by Congress in December had authorized the hiring of 2,000 Border Patrol agents every year for the next five years, to nearly double the force to more than 20,000.

"This administration just doesn't get the connection between homeland security and border security," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents the agency's non-supervisory agents.

But even with the $36.9 million being proposed for the recruitment, hiring and training for the 210 hires, the agent level will remain below 11,000, at 10,949, about 90 percent on the U.S.-Mexican border.

That's because as many as 500 to 600 border agents left their jobs last year and have not been replaced, Bonner said.

Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., said that he while he welcomes and supports the commitment to restrain federal spending, "I am convinced that we can and must provide full funding for the 2,000 new Border Patrol agents we authorized last year."


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