Dr. Coburn Opposes Shifting Funds Away from Crime Victims Fund
Fund Benefits Oklahoma City Bombing Victims
The Senate subcommittee chaired by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) held a hearing Wednesday, March 8, to discuss a proposal to shift money away from the Crime Victims Fund, a federal program that forces criminals to help pay for the costs of their crimes. At the Federal Financial Management subcommittee hearing, Dr. Coburn said he opposed efforts by the administration to take money out of the fund, which has been used to compensate survivors and families of the Oklahoma City bombing and other crimes.
"President Ronald Reagan, during the first years of his presidency, initiated a new federal program the Crime Victims Fund. The Crime Victims Fund operates by the novel idea of making criminals pay for the system they create. In the spirit of justice through restitution, fines, fees, and forfeitures paid by criminals are used for direct services and compensation to victims. And unlike almost every other government program, the Crime Victims Fund is self-funding, meaning we don't have to ask the taxpayers to pay for it," Dr. Coburn said.
Dr. Coburn said Congress has set a cap on how much money can be spent from the fund and deposits more than the congressionally-capped amount are set aside as "rainy day" money. At the end of the year, when money is distributed to the states for victim services and compensation grants, the "rainy day" money from previous windfall years makes up the remainder, up to the capped amount.
In 2005, Oklahoma crime victims received $4.6 million in victims' assistance grants and $1.68 million in victims' compensation grants.
"Like last year, this year's budget proposal is treating the rainy day' money in the Crime Victims Fund as a surplus,' because it remains in the fund throughout the year before being used to make up for shortfalls in deposits at the end of the year, pursuant to explicit legislative language," Dr. Coburn said. "The Office of Management and Budget is not only proposing to raid the Crime Victims Fund of the rainy day money but also to take out - in advance - what is expected to be deposited all year.
"I have no problem with the administration making good faith efforts to shrink government, identify programs that are inefficient, failing or duplicative, make the case that these programs should be permanently terminated, and have a debate. However, that case isn't being made here," Dr. Coburn said. "I wouldn't agree with terminating the program - it is, after all, the ideal type of program we want - the people who create the problems addressed by the program are the same ones who pay for it."
Marsha Kimble, whose daughter Frankie Merrell died in the Oklahoma City bombing, testified about the help bombing survivors and families received from the Crime Victims Fund. .
"Weeks later (after April 19, 1995) I was made aware of victim services. Families, survivors and rescue workers were in desperate need of help. The Office for Victims of Crime stepped in and started covering bomb-related expenses which included identifying victims, providing us with referral information for medical expenses, psychological counseling and compensation for lost wages incurred due to the bombing," said Kimble, who founded the crime victims support group Families and Survivors United. "Oklahoma citizens used $114,679 in state Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds, plus $98,948 in state VOCA compensation funds. Theses funds came from fines and fees imposed on Federal criminal offenders. They were not derived from taxpayers' dollars.
"The Office of Victims of Crime funded initiatives to help us. More than $1.7 million was used to provide victim services and support throughout the two federal trials in Colorado," Kimble said. "These funds provided us with information about the status of the criminal investigation and prosecution of the criminal case against the suspects; facilitated victim participation in the criminal case through trial attendance; and prepared victims to present impact statements during sentencing."