Berkley briefs lawmakers on federal budget |

Berkley briefs lawmakers on federal budget

Associated Press Writer

Rep. Shelley Berkley, now on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, told state lawmakers on Monday that the budget proposed by President Bush makes “asinine” cuts in federal funds that will hurt Nevada and other states.

But Berkley, D-Nev., said there’s one federal budget account that she’d like to see disappear completely – the nearly $500 million that Bush put into his $2.9 trillion budget plan for a high-level nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

Berkley said she’s working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is “hellbent on eliminating” the Yucca Mountain funding. She also urged legislators to continue their opposition to the dump until it’s “nothing but a very, very bad memory.”

In comments to the lawmakers and to reporters at an earlier news conference, Berkley highlighted numerous problems created for this state by the proposed federal budget, including a 64 percent cut in the state’s homeland security grant funds.

There’s also inadequate funding to fully carry out terms of the federal No Child Left Behind Act or properly run Head Start or anti-drug programs, Berkley said.

In Nevada, about 425,000 people lack health insurance but the proposed federal budget makes cuts in critical programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, Berkley said, adding that a slight increase in federal funds for a health insurance program for children is far below what’s actually needed.

The proposed budget also cuts funding for Nevada’s environmental programs, cuts job training and employment assistance and revives an attack on the Social Security system, Berkley said.

Berkley also said she’s working with other Democrats in the Democrat-controlled Congress to revise the federally mandated Real ID program which will require Nevadans to apply for new, tamper-proof driver’s licenses.

The congresswoman told reporters that the federal government will have to “pony up” with additional funding rather than force Nevada and other states to spend billions of dollars complying with the law.

She added that because of all the funding problems with the proposed budget the hopes of adequate dollars for such pressing needs as highway construction are “becoming dimmer and dimmer.” Nevada’s projected shortfall for road funds is about $3.8 billion.

Berkley also repeated her opposition to the Bush administration’s troop “surge” in Iraq, and said a political rather than military solution is the best tactic.