Millions for Southland projects in $516 billion federal spending bill

first_imgWASHINGTON – Millions of dollars for Southern California projects are poised for approval in a massive federal spending bill that cleared a key hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday. Just days away from being finalized, the $516 billion spending bill includes funds for dozens of regional projects including cleanup at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site and reimbursement for the costs of incarcerating illegal immigrants. It also clears away the last federal obstacles to tunneling a “subway to the sea” through West Los Angeles. Cramming together 11 of the year’s 12 appropriations measures into a single package, it includes a controversial $70billion for the Iraq war that the White House had sought. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champWhile local Democrats said they were disappointed their party yielded to President Bush on Iraq funding, they said the concession was needed to end the stalemate between the White House and Congress. “We are where we are. No one wants to have the government shut down,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, the only Southern California Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “It’s not ideal, but there’s a lot of good investment in the omnibus bill.” Republicans, meanwhile, blasted the measure, accusing Democrats of air-dropping pet projects known as earmarks into the bill while cutting off support for U.S. troops and slashing funds for other GOP priorities. “There was no focus on the budget this entire year. We had 41 votes on cutting off funding for our troops, and they let everything else just drop by the wayside,” said Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks. “Ultimately, the Democrats had all year to get this work done and the omnibus in its current form demonstrates their failure to govern effectively,” said Jo Maney, spokeswoman for Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora. The House passed the spending bill late Monday, including only $30 billion for Afghanistan and nothing for Iraq. On Tuesday the Senate moved to insert as much as $70 billion for Iraq. It is expected to send the bill back to the House today for a final vote, although some Southland Democrats who oppose the war say they won’t sign off on it. “At this moment I can’t tell you, but I’m leaning against that funding,” said Rep. Hilda Solis, D-El Monte. Still, noted Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, the bill will pass. “It may pass with more Republican votes than Democratic votes, but it will pass,” he said. Sherman said he also is reluctant to vote for legislation that continues to fund the war without imposing any restrictions on the administration. He and other Southland Democrats insisted that the bill still makes important changes, spending more on rural health care, AIDS programs and veterans than Bush wanted. “It’s a far better budget than what the president proposed. We have to feel good about that, knowing this is a down payment on changes to this country,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles. Democrats also hailed the local projects tucked into the bill. Those ranged from $262.4 million for the Mars Exploration Program managed by Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to smaller investments such as $1 million to improve Metrolink grade crossings and $392,000 for a transit center at California State University, Northridge. The bill includes $13 million for Santa Susana Field Laboratory cleanup and also demands that the Environmental Protection Agency team up with the Energy Department in conducting a second survey of the site. Dan Hirsch, a member of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory Advisory Panel, said the language inserted by Sen. Dianne Feinstein is important because the DOE “cannot be trusted” to conduct the study without oversight. “It is the entity that caused the problem in the first place,” said Hirsch. “It’s not as much as we wanted, but it’s still a very big deal.” Also tucked into the bill is a measure preventing commercial development at the West Los Angeles Veterans Center and $410 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses states for the money they spend incarcerating illegal immigrants. That’s just $5 million more than Congress gave last year, and just a fraction of what the state spends. Yet not all Southland priorities found funding in the 3,565-page measure. Maney noted that Democrats put no money toward either the Alameda Corridor East or the Gold Line. But the measure does clear the way for a $4.8 billion subway line from downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean by lifting a 20-year-old federal prohibition on tunneling. “Los Angeles has the worst traffic in the nation, and commuters find themselves in gridlock every day,” said Feinstein, who worked to lift the ban with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles. “This action by Congress moves Los Angeles a step closer to seeing the long-anticipated expansion of the Metro Red Line become a reality.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img