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Bush would give, take in California

He proposes cutting funding for CalFed flood control and a jail repayment program, but would add money for other projects.

February 06, 2007|Molly Hennessy-Fiske | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Several members of the California congressional delegation -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- vowed Monday to fight aspects of President Bush's budget plan that they said would hurt the state, including a proposed funding cut for a Central Valley flood prevention project.

Many of Bush's proposed cuts "are not going to happen," predicted Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), especially with Democrats now in control of Congress.

Parts of Bush's budget cheered Californians.

The state stands to benefit from a proposed change in budget provisions that would steer more of the Homeland Security Department's money to the nation's more populous states.

"We expect [such a change] would significantly increase California's share of the spending total," said Tim Ransdell, executive director of the Washington-based California Institute for Federal Policy Research.

Bush's budget also would set aside additional federal money for several California projects, including about $10 million more for the Sacramento River Bank Protection Project and $115 million to finish construction of the Mendota prison outside Fresno.

But Bush's proposed cuts to the CalFed Bay-Delta flood control project provoked bipartisan ire.

The project has been rebuilding levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, the state's primary watershed. Bush called for spending $31.8 million on the project in the 2008 fiscal year, down from $38.6 million this fiscal year.

"Our effort will be to try to make certain we get the funding that was budgeted for the preceding year," said Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton).

Royce said California's congressional delegation, though divided on other issues, was accustomed to working together to protect such projects.

Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk), who has championed the CalFed project, said a cut in its federal funding would harm not only the state, but the country as well.

"If we don't prepare for being able to produce an adequate water supply, we can't grow; we can't grow our U.S. economy," Napolitano said.

Bush's budget would eliminate another program the California congressional delegation has come together to restore in the past: the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which partially reimburses states for the cost of jailing illegal immigrants.

This fiscal year, Congress restored about $405 million for the program, including about $114 million for California.

Even with the restored funding, California officials perennially have complained that the federal contribution falls far short of what it should be.

For instance, the money funneled to the state this fiscal year for jailing illegal immigrants amounted to a fraction of the roughly $897.3 million in such costs that the state expects, according to Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer.

In a statement, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the proposal to eliminate federal reimbursement "unacceptable."

"This program has bipartisan support in the Congress and with my fellow governors who have to bear the costs of a failed federal immigration policy," said Schwarzenegger, a Republican. "Working together, I'm confident that these funds will be restored to the budget, as they have in the past."

Echoing those sentiments was Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

"California shoulders a large part of the nation's burden of incarcerating undocumented criminals -- we must keep this important program adequately funded," she said in a statement.

Bush's budget also proposes selling $800 million worth of national forest lands, including parcels in California, to raise money for rural counties and U.S. Forest Service programs. The plan is similar to one that died last year in a GOPcontrolled Congress and is likely to face a tough time in the new session.


Times staff writers Evan Halper in Sacramento and Bettina Boxall in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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