[Jog] Newspaper articles
Jennifer L YOUNG
Jennifer.L.Young at state.or.us
Wed Jul 23 22:14:43 PDT 2003
I have been on vacation for the past two weeks and as you can see I am catching-up on forwarding information to you. Below are a few articles that appeared in the Statesman-Journal and the Oregonian over the last week and a half, just in case you hadn't gotten a chance to read them already.
Groups decry federal grant rejection
More than $22 million in grants has been blocked; most don t require a state
Oregonian article (front page!):
Anger rises over possible 'no' to grants
Bids for federal grants denied
SALEM -- Key Oregon legislators have denied one-quarter of state agencies'
requests to apply for federal grants this year, a significant change from
past years, when such rejections were rare.
Most of the rejected requests were for public health grants, while others
would have been used for purposes such as buying private wetlands.
Together, the rejected applications were for grants totaling more than $15
million, a tiny amount compared with the state's multibillion-dollar general
Still, the rejections have puzzled advocacy groups, agency officials and
others particularly at a time the state budget has been pummeled by a
lagging economy that has reduced income tax revenues.
"People have seen the Doonesbury cartoons" highlighting Oregon's school
financing problems, said Hilary Abraham of the Nature Conservancy of Oregon.
"They're saying, 'You can't afford to fund education. Why are you doing
The scrutiny of the federal grants is coming from the co-chairmen of the
Joint Ways and Means Committee, the Legislature's budget-writing body, which
must clear all grant requests. Rep. Randy Miller, R-West Linn, and Sen. Kurt
Schrader, D-Canby, say they are concerned about issues such as whether grant
programs fit with an agency's core mission, whether the state would have to
provide matching funds and whether the state would have to pick up the slack
when federal grant money runs out.
The Ways and Means Committee has denied 11 of 46 agency requests to apply
for federal grants this year, according to legislative records.
Although some observers are scratching their heads at the rejections, Miller
and Schrader seem equally puzzled by the attention given to their scrutiny
of the grant process. Schrader said it is his understanding that lawmakers
were tougher on grant requests in past decades.
"I think all the excitement over this is an indication of how difficult it
is for us to trim anything in government," Miller said.
Federal money that goes to state agencies is separate from the state's
general fund, where lawmakers face a shortfall in the 2003-05 budget.
Agencies seek grants because federal funds sometimes can replace general
funds, freeing money that can be spent elsewhere.
For 30 years, state law has required agencies to get lawmakers'
authorization to apply for federal grants. During legislative sessions, that
authorization has to come from the Ways and Means Committee.
This year, the Ways and Means Committee has allowed far more grant
application requests to go through than it has stopped. Among those going
forward were applications for grants for pollution prevention, improved
services for talented and gifted students, repairs to covered bridges,
improvements to drug courts, prevention of dairy cattle disease and
prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Rejection of 11 requests this year is far different from the 2001
Legislature, according to lobbyists, agency officials and lawmakers.
"I cannot recall that we ever turned one down," said Rep. Ben Westlund,
R-Bend, co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in 2001 with Sen. Lenn
Although no one is known to have surveyed other states, Oregon's rejections
of the federal grants appear to be unusual.
"Generally, states are appreciative of federal grants and often come to rely
on them, in the health area and others," said Richard Cauchi, health care
program manager for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "We have
not heard of significant numbers of those grants being turned down" at the
Chairmen switch on grant Miller and Schrader have changed their minds on at
least one grant application request that they had blocked: a five-year grant
for the Department of Human Services to evaluate the effectiveness of
immunization for pertussis, or whooping cough. The grant from the national
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would provide $325,000 a year for
The department originally requested permission to apply for the grant in
May, but last week, Miller and Schrader approved sending it to a
subcommittee for a hearing.
On Monday, Schrader still didn't sound convinced that the grant is worth
pursuing. He said one of his concerns about federal grants is that money
goes for "studies that don't do anything," and he prefers programs that
provide direct services to Oregonians. He questioned whether anyone doubts
that immunization is effective in treating pertussis.
"Does it give you any vaccine? No," he said of the grant. "Does it give you
any doctors? No. It's just a study."
Agencies must get approval both to apply for a federal grant and to spend
the money once a grant is awarded.
Among the grant requests that remain blocked, two would provide $1.7 million
for buying nearly 1,000 acres of coastal wetlands in Seaside and around
Yaquina Bay. Last year, after the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
received tentative approval to apply for the grants, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service awarded the money. However, the Legislature never gave
final authorization for the application, and the money remains in limbo.
Supporters say both purchases involve willing sellers, have strong support
from local governments and would protect lands facing potential development.
In addition to not being assigned to a Ways and Means subcommittee for a
hearing, they face resistance from Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay, chairman
of the Natural Resources subcommittee.
Messerle said he has several concerns, including the fact that two public
bodies own portions of the Yaquina Bay property, and he questions whether it
makes sense to spend public money to buy property that is already publicly
owned. He also noted that the Seaside property is zoned for residential use,
which raises its price.
The future of the grants, he said, is tied to the need for a policy
discussion on how the state should proceed on public land acquisition given
that about 60 percent of the state is publicly owned. Before the grants go
forward, "I'm going to push as hard as I can to have that policy
discussion," he said Monday.
7 Human Services bids held back The Department of Human Services easily has
been the most active agency on the federal grant front this year, submitting
18 of the requests. Seven of those have been denied permission to go
forward, not counting the pertussis application.
Public health is heavily supported by federal grants. In the state Office of
Disease Prevention and Epidemiology, which has a $35 million budget, only
about 5 percent of the money comes from the state general fund, said Dr. Mel
Kohn, state epidemiologist.
When state officials helped investigate a recent E. coli outbreak, for
instance, the work was paid for by federal grants, Kohn said.
Most of the grants blocked by Ways and Means would not make money available
for some time. But like the wetlands grants, at least one other grant
involves dollars that officials say would be ready almost immediately if
lawmakers cleared applying for it. That is a $2.25 million grant that would
help Oregon lower its rate of obesity.
"The dollars are ours if we claim them," Kohn said. "If not, they will go to
Miller is not impressed. He said the program seems less than critical.
"It's my observation that most Oregonians know they should exercise more and
eat more fruits and vegetables," Miller said.
Dave Hogan: 503-221-8531, davehogan at news.oregonian.com
And finally a story by Renee Mitchell in the Oregonian with some hopeful solutions for us all.
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