In a federal election year with increasing concern about the rising federal deficit, don’t look for any big increases in federal spending on anticrime programs. That was the message criminal justice organizations got in Washington, D.C. yesterday from a congressional staff member who deals with Justice Department funding. Among the perennial issues that must be addressed are how much to reimburse states for incarcerating immigrants and budget levels for homeland security–not directly a crime issue but since 2001 viewed as a competitor for anticrime funding. The Obama administration has proposed several new justice-related programs but money for them likely must be taken from existing projects.
Another complication that justice watchers might not think much about is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It happens that the NASA budget is handled by the same congressional committees that decide on Justice Department appropriations, and President Obama has proposed to end a major NASA program. Conceivably, any congressional efforts to restore NASA funding could affect the Justice Department’s allotment. Another big issue Congress must grapple with are earmarks by members for specific programs. Some lawmakers may be forced to decide between projects for their districts and those sought by national organizations–” a hard choice for members to make,” said the staff member.