DEPARTMENTS OF COMMERCE AND JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006--CONFERENCE REPORT--Resumed
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise in support of the conference report accompanying H.R. 2862, the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2006, but I do so with some reservations. To be sure, this bill funds many programs and agencies vital to the Nation's security and economic strength, and the conferees should be complimented for drafting a balanced spending bill. However, this appropriations measure is also supposed to fund local law enforcement and juvenile crime prevention programs, and in the past, it did so successfully. Unfortunately, this year's version does not adequately fulfill the very important responsibility of supporting law enforcement and crime prevention programs.
Let us first consider the Edward J. Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. For more than 30 years, Byrne grants have paid for State and local drug task forces, community crime prevention programs, substance abuse treatment programs, prosecution initiatives, and many other local crime control programs. Talk to any police chief or sheriff back in your home State and they will tell you that the Byrne program is the backbone of Federal aid for local law enforcement. We should not walk away from a program with more than 30 years of success supporting our local police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys.
Sadly, this conference report takes a step in that direction by providing a little more than $416 million for the Byrne grant program. That number represents a cut of more than $200 million from last year's level. Slashing the Byrne program in this manner will have a real and negative impact on local police departments, district attorneys, and community crime prevention programs.
The COPS program is another victim of this conference report. Though my colleagues should be commended for increasing the overall COPS Program from last year's level of $388 million to $478 million this year, I am discouraged that we have zeroed out the Universal Hiring Program completely this year. We should remember that just 3 years ago, the overall COPS program received more than a billion dollars, and $330 million of that was for the hiring program which simply puts more cops on the streets. And that simply has led to a reduction in crime. Do we want to risk this success by abandoning a program that works?
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is how the title V Local Delinquency Prevention Program is treated in this appropriations bill. The title V program is the only Federal program solely dedicated to juvenile crime prevention, and the conference report dedicates $65 million to it. But after one takes away all of the national earmarks that are housed in title V--all worthy programs that I support like the Gang Resistance, Education and Training, GREAT Program--title V is left with a mere $5 million to spread across the entire country. That amount is not enough to build robust juvenile crime prevention programs. I should hope that in the future, we can, at a minimum, fund the title V program at the Senate-passed level of $80 million and do so free of national program earmarks. To be sure, these other programs deserve federal dollars and should be funded as separate line items in order that title V can have sufficient program funds to operate successfully.
Make no mistake, juvenile crime prevention programs supported by title V are worth our support. According to many experts in the field, every dollar spent on prevention saves three or four dollars in costs attributable to juvenile crime. And who can put a dollar value on the hundreds, even thousands of young lives turned from crime and into productive work and community life by the juvenile crime prevention initiatives supported by title V? We can and must do better.
This conference report is the product of many long hours of negotiations and hard work. Subcommittee Chairman Shelby and Ranking Member MIKULSKI and their staffs deserve praise for a balanced product. Indeed, this bill is the result of compromise and I will vote in favor of it. But I hope that next year we can do a better job at helping our overworked local police officers and giving a ray of hope for disadvantaged children who desperately need our help.