Fresno County looks for money in DC as budget cuts hit

 

McClatchy Newspapers

Fresno County officials are lobbying Congress at an awkward time this week.

While the county has a wish list, the Congress has a budget problem. Several budget problems, actually, all of which complicate the county’s efforts to fund priorities ranging from road improvements to high-speed rail training.

“It certainly makes it more challenging,” Fresno County Board of Supervisors Chairman Henry R. Perea acknowledged Monday.

Perea is one of 22 politically attuned Fresno County residents swarming Capitol Hill this week as part of an annual lobbying trip dubbed “One Voice.” This is the county’s eighth annual lobbying trip coordinated under the “One Voice” umbrella by the Fresno Council of Governments, but the first to occur under such peculiar circumstances.

On Saturday, just as the Fresno delegation arrived, the federal government entered into the murky budget world known inside-the-Beltway as the “sequester.” The automatic round of across-the-board budget cuts, imposed because Congress and the White House failed to strike a deal, will eventually reduce federal spending by $85 billion through Oct. 1. Further clouding the picture, a temporary spending measure that keeps the federal government operating expires March 27.

Even if the temporary spending measure, called a “continuing resolution,” is extended by lawmakers leery of paying the political price for a government shutdown, the dollar amounts will be tight.

“As dire as it is,” Perea said, “there is still funding available.”

Akin to similarly named ventures undertaken by other San Joaquin Valley counties, the “One Trip” delegation emphasizes a locally unified effort on behalf of a carefully pruned agenda.

This year, the delegation is focusing on nine current or proposed federal programs. They aren’t earmarks, the individual projects that lawmakers once favored and that skeptics called pork. Led by House Republicans, Congress has sworn off earmarks for the time being.

Instead, for the most part, Fresno officials are backing larger programs for which potential local beneficiaries have been identified. By supporting continued State Transportation Improvement Program funding in the next federal transportation bill, for instance, officials hope dollars will trickle down to pay for work on a Veterans Boulevard and State Route 99 interchange.

In a similar vein, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims is pushing for continued State Criminal Alien Assistance Program funding to help reimburse the county for the cost of jailing illegal immigrants locked up on other crimes. National program cuts have slashed the county’s share, from $1.3 million in 2008-2009, to $468,000 last year.

“We hold a lot of inmates who are criminal aliens,” Mims said.

As in past years, the Fresno County officials are proposing establishment of a new “air and health quality empowerment zone” to help fund San Joaquin Valley air pollution cleanup efforts. They are also asking for help in creating a “high-speed rail training facility” that would train workers, and for continued community development block grant funding.

“We understand there are no earmarks, but we want to be in position when they make allocations,” Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson said.

The Fresno County delegation includes a mix of public and private officials. The small city of Orange Cove, with a population of about 9,000, sent three representatives, more than any other town in the county. Mayor Gabriel Jimenez and Mayor Pro Tem Victor Lopez, who have feuded sharply in the past, are part of the “One Voice” contingent, along with Mario Villarreal, police commissioner with the Orange Cove Police Protection District.

Accompanied by lobbyist Len Simon, whose firm has been separately retained both by the city of Fresno and the Fresno Council of Governments, the county officials set up shop Monday on the fifth floor of a House office building to receive briefings. Other meetings are occurring elsewhere through Wednesday.

Email: mdoyle@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @MichaelDoyle10

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
A Buddhist monk lights the funeral pyre of Nepalese climber Ang Kaji Sherpa  killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest,  in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 21, 2014. Buddhist monks cremated the remains of Sherpa guides who were buried in the deadliest avalanche ever recorded on Mount Everest, a disaster that has prompted calls for a climbing boycott by Nepal's ethnic Sherpa community. The avalanche killed at least 13 Sherpas. Three other Sherpas remain missing and are presumed dead.

    Sherpas consider boycott after Everest disaster

    Buddhist monks cremated the remains of Sherpa guides who were buried in the deadliest avalanche to hit Mount Everest, a disaster that has prompted calls for a climbing boycott by Nepal's ethnic Sherpa community.

  •  
FILE - This Jan. 9, 2009, file photo shows equipment inside a pilot plant in Scotland, S.D., that turns corn cob into cellulosic ethanol, a precursor to a commercial-scale biorefinery planned for Emmetsburg, Iowa. Biofuels made from corn leftovers after harvest are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a cleaner oil alternative from the start and will help climate change.

    Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas

    Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

  •  
In this March 19, 2014 photo, Oregon Republican Senate candidate, State Rep. Jason Conger, right, speaks as fellow candidate Portland lawyer Tim Crawley, looks on, during a candidate forum in Lake Oswego, Ore. Republicans are making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in Oregon, a reliably Democratic state that hasn't elected a Republican to a statewide office in more than a decade. Republicans think they've found the right candidate in Monica Wehby, a children's brain surgeon who's raised more than $1 million and put her early opposition to the president's health law at the center of her campaign to help her party regain a Senate majority.

    GOP making bold play for US Senate seat in Oregon

    The GOP is making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in reliably Democratic Oregon, where a Republican hasn't been elected to a statewide office in more than a decade.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category