WASHINGTON - Mayor Bill de Blasio urged a receptive congressional panel on Tuesday “to protect the residents of New York City and all terrorist targets” by restoring $270 million in security grants that the Obama administration cut in its 2017 proposed budget.
De Blasio told a House Homeland Security subcommittee that New York City and the other cities that receive funding from the Urban Area Security Initiative program cannot sustain the proposed budget’s $330 million in funding, slashed from $600 million this year.
“We are calling on Congress to fully fund this essential program, which provides crucial funding to our New York Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Management Department,” de Blasio testified.
“These key agencies play an essential role in our anti-terror response and have kept our city safe for years. In light of recent attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, France, now is not the time to cut corners on our security,” he said.
New York City’s Urban Area Security Initiative grant, which also would be cut in half under the proposed budget, includes funding and coordination with Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, as well as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
As the hearing was held, House Republicans battled over the size and cuts in its version of the budget. The GOP-controlled Congress declared President Barack Obama’s spending plan dead on arrival when he announced it last month.
De Blasio is scheduled to meet with the New York congressional delegation and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Tuesday afternoon to make his case for full funding.
De Blasio’s pleas were met with bipartisan support by the subcommittee.
Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island), the panel’s chairman, criticized the Obama administration for trying to “balance the budget on the back of first responders.” Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), the ranking Democrat, said, “Together we can fight these cuts and win.”
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), a panel member, said, “I think it is very clear that federal government is responsible for protecting the homeland.” Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) dropped by to offer his support.
No Obama administration officials were invited to the hearing.
President Barack Obama’s $4.2 trillion spending plan for 2017 includes $40.6 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, but restructures and reduces grants for states and localities for efficiency and to build in past successes.
Obama’s budget also would reduce state homeland security grants to $200 million from $467 million, port security grants to $93 million from $100 million and transit security grants to $85 million from $100 million.