The Bush Administration formally presented Congress with its budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2005 last week. As always, the budget represents the president's priorities on issues ranging from road construction to water quality. This year, however, those priorities seem stacked against Long Island.
First, the budget would drastically cut funding for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which helps fire departments purchase life-saving equipment like thermal imaging cameras and communications systems. This program has been of critical importance to us on Long Island. In fact, the Bellerose, East Rockaway, East Williston, Meadowmere Park, Malverne, Manhasset-Lakeville, Rockville Centre, Roosevelt and Stewart Manor Fire Departments all received grants this past year, with a combined total of $1.23 million.
Another concern I have about the budget is its gutting of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. COPS provides law enforcement agencies with an array of training and technical assistance intended to improve their ability to fight crime. For instance, Nassau County received a $6 million grant last year to support a more integrated communications system. However, the president's budget would slash COPS funding from $756 million to only $97 million in leftover money from last year. Clearly, the intention is to let this important program die on the vine.
Finally, I'm concerned about the budget's impact on Long Island veterans. Under the proposal, Priority 7 and 8 veterans (many of whom are patients at the Northport VA hospital) would face high co-payments and new annual fees for outpatients care and prescription drugs.
Taking a broader view, spending on education and health care would not keep up with inflation. With the No Child Left Behind program already facing a $9.4 billion shortfall, that's no way to prepare America for the future. At the end of the day, a budget is a list of priorities. Looking over this proposal I can tell we've got our priorities out of order.