The U.S. House of Representatives voted this week to reauthorize the Byrne-Justice Assistance Grant program that is a primary vehicle for the federal government to provide anticrime aid to states, counties, and cities. The vote was noteworthy because Congress is acting on relatively few bills on criminal justice or other policy issues during this election year. The bill provides that Congress may spend no more than $800 million annually on Byrne-JAG anticrime grants, a cut from the previous authorization of more than $1 billion but well above the current appropriation of $352 million.
The National Criminal Justice Association, which represents states and localities, notes that funding for Byrne JAG has hovered around $500 million annually since the late 1990's. It was severely cut in fiscal 2008 to $170 million. In addition to this year’s $352 million appropriation for anticrime spending, more than $100 million for Republican and Democratic national convention security is included in the Byrne-JAG program. The authorization still must be voted on by the Senate. The outlook for anticrime funding from Washington generally is clouded by uncertainties over the general election outcome and by congressional moves that could sharply cut federal spending on domestic programs in coming fiscal years. That is not likely to be decided until at least a lame-duck congressional session later this year and more likely in 2013.