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Federal Update: President Releases Proposed 2013 Federal Budget

On Feb. 13, President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2013 proposed budget request, which impacts several county related programs. The proposal includes the following:
  • The Byrne-Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program is funded at $430 million, which is a $60 million increase from the FY 2012 enacted level.
  • Provides $70 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which provides federal payments to states and local governments for correctional costs associated with incarcerating illegal aliens. This is a $170 million reduction from the FY 2012 enacted level.
  • Consolidates the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) program with the Department of Justice’s Drug, Mental Health, and Problem Solving Court Initiative. The MIOTCRA program provides financial grant assistance to states and localities for programs assisting mentally ill offenders, including jail diversion programs. The proposed consolidation may impact many of the law enforcement initiatives funded under the program.
  • Extends the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program as a mandatory program through 2013 and provides $398 million in funding.
  • Revises the Secure Rural School program to include cuts to the county payments titles of the program. The Title 1 roads portion would be reduced by 20 percent for the first year, an additional 10 percent in 2013, and 25 percent each year after that. Under the proposal, in the third year, any state receiving less than $10 million in payments would no longer be eligible for the program and counties in that state would no longer receive funding. Additionally, Title III funding for county fire assistance would be reduced by 50 percent in the first year and then eliminated by the second year.
  • Provides $41.8 billion for highway transportation funding, which is a $2.7 billion increase.
  • Provides level funding for the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDGB) at $2.95 billion.
  • Reduces funding for the Clean Water/Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs by $359 million.

For a more detailed overview of the administration’s proposed budget, please see the full analysis prepared by the National Association of Counties (NACo).

Senate Passes Transportation Bill
On March 14, the U.S. Senate passed a two-year reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. The legislation (S. 1813) authorizes $109 billion in funding and continues current spending levels, with most programs adjusted for inflation.

The Senate bill consolidates many of the nation’s surface transportation programs. As originally proposed, the bill would have eliminated the 15 percent set-aside for the off-system bridge program, which funds bridges that are not on the federal highway system. However, an amendment that would provide full funding for the set-aside to fund local off-system bridges was adopted on the Senate floor. Additionally, the Senate adopted an amendment relating to Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). The proposed bill included a provision which would decertify or eliminate MPOs between 50,000 and 200,000 in population under certain circumstances. However, an amendment was added to grandfather in existing MPOs.

Also included in the legislation is a provision that would dedicate 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalty fines from the BP Deep Horizon oil spill to the five affected Gulf Coast states, including Texas, for ecosystem and economic restoration. Another amendment added to the legislation would fund the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for one year.

The U.S. House of Representatives must now consider the legislation, and it remains unclear what provisions the House version might contain.

Bill Reallocates D-Block Wireless Spectrum to Public Safety
Included in the payroll tax package recently passed by Congress and signed by the president is a provision that would reallocate the D-Block spectrum, a wireless spectrum for interoperable communications, to public safety.

The measure provides $7 billion for the national public safety network and does not require the proposed give-back of 700 MHz narrowband spectrum used for voice. It provides for a governance model for the network that includes state and local officials and also provides funding for the development of the Next Generation 911 system. The funding and reallocation of the spectrum will aid in the creation and implementation of a nationwide interoperable mobile broadband network for public safety.