`Pork’ persists in new version of Iraq war spending package

first_imgWASHINGTON – In Washington, it pays to read the fine print. The Iraq funding bill is a perfect example, studded with provisions to help dairy farmers, airlines, salmon fisherman and rural counties hurt by cutbacks in federal logging. And that’s just scratching the surface. Take dairy farmers, for example. They’re receiving $1.2 billion in help in the Iraq bill as lawmakers clear the way to renew a subsidy program aimed at smaller milk producers. Then there are airlines like Continental and American, who won a last-minute battle with the White House over a plan that would allow them to together reduce the contributions to their pension plans by almost $2 billion over the next decade. The war funding bill fixes all that by adding $1.2 billion over five years – violating the spirit of new pay-as-you-go rules requiring increases to farm programs to be “paid for” by cuts elsewhere – to the pot of money available for this year’s rewrite of farm programs. Further, under budget rules, that money is made available only for the MILC program. “It makes my job a lot easier,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn. The White House took a firmer – but losing – stand against provisions aimed at helping American and Continental, looking for flexibility in their pension plan contributions. But American and Continental were backed by Senate powerhouses such as Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois. The two airlines were seeking relief comparable to that awarded Northwest and Delta last year. The White House protested, administration officials said, claiming the provision favoring American ran counter to an agreement to keep wholly new material out of the bill. The provision matched relief provided to Continental in an earlier, vetoed version of the bill. The two companies, along with a few smaller airlines such as Alaska Air, will be given leeway to reduce contributions to their defined benefit pension plans by a combined $2 billion. White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten issued a veto threat, White House and congressional officials said, but backed off after Reid insisted the provision go forward. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The language extending the Milk Income Loss Contract, or MILC program, is just one of the provisions hitching a ride on the Iraq measure that couldn’t advance on their own. Taken together, they generated lots of enthusiasm among House lawmakers, who approved them by a 348-73 vote. The Senate cleared the war funding bill, 80-14. Powerful Democrats such as House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., used the war funding bill to shield renewing the MILC program from opponents in western states. The program makes payments to farmers when milk prices drop. It favors those from states where dairy herds tend to be smaller – such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania – since it pays farmers only on the amount of milk produced by about 120 cows in a year. Western states with their generally larger herds benefit far less, so MILC has many opponents, too, such as Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. The 12-line MILC provision has its roots in a battle from two years ago over extending the program, which expired briefly in 2005. Then, opponents such as Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., grudgingly agreed to renew the program as part of a broader deficit-reduction bill, but only after making sure it wouldn’t be factored into budget estimates allotting funds to rewrite the farm bill this year. Goodlatte’s move put the MILC program at a disadvantage since it required lawmakers to cut other popular farm programs in order to extend milk subsidies this year. last_img read more

Water fees may increase

first_imgWHITTIER – After several years of making municipal budget cuts and raising fees, better times are back for Whittier. City Manager Steve Helvey’s proposed $90.6 million budget for fiscal 2006-07 is balanced without the kind of cuts and fee increases in previous years, although it does include proposed water and trash rate increases. The City Council will study the budget in a special session at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Senior Center, 13225 Walnut St., Whittier. “We think it’s good right now,” Controller Rod Hill said Wednesday. “Historically we’ve used our fund balance to fund a couple of positions in the Police Department and for community services,” he said, referring to money saved in past years. “This year we have sufficient money to fund them out of the current year’s revenue. That’s a significant change.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsRevenue is projected to grow by about 8.1 percent, or about $7.1 million, to $95.2 million, in part because of expected increases in property values, sales tax and utility users tax as well as the elimination of the state take-away of property tax dollars, Helvey stated in his budget message to the council. In addition, Helvey is proposing to increase water rates by 4.5 percent and trash rates by 2.7 percent. “We’re financially sound this year,” Hill said. “We have a long-term labor contract. There’s nothing for fiscal 2006-07 that I see as a surprise.” There’s also a projected $300,000 surplus in the general fund, providing some extra money for the council to dip into for additional projects, he said. The general fund budget projects spending of $51 million and nearly $51.3 million in revenue. But the picture in the past wasn’t so good. Last year, the council cut 2 percent from all of the departments, eliminated the annual fireworks show and closed the city’s two libraries on Sundays. In 2004, the city did not replace city employees who quit or retired and cut all departments by 3.2 percent. Some of those problems were caused when the state began taking away property tax, Hill said. That program was stopped this year and will save the city $719,018. Next year’s budget reflects only a few minor changes over this year, Hill said. Only one new employee,, will be added. The budget also contains about $4.6 million for capital improvements, including repaving of Greenleaf Avenue and Mar Vista Street, more radar signs and crosswalks, new water lines, the re-carpeting of part of City Hall, and accessibility improvements at the community and senior centers. a geographic information system position [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3022160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more