WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wants to change the government's formula for giving states money for homeland security, with the early voting states getting a little extra.
Obama wants states that have a bigger risk from the terrorist threat to get more of federal homeland security dollars — also a recommendation from the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. That's an unpopular idea among lawmakers from smaller states who would lose funding on the switch.
Currently, each state gets at least a .75 percent share of the roughly $900 million in the state homeland security grant program. The Senate bill would lower that to .45 percent, and Obama, the Illinois senator, is offering an amendment that would cut it to .25 percent.
A memo by Obama's staff says the senator wants to "ensure the funding is allocated based on the threats states face, not politics."
But states with big political influence need not worry that they will get short shrift from the candidate's amendment.
The biggest benefactors would be Obama's home state and other heavily populated states. Illinois, California, New York, Texas and Florida would each get more than $1 million in extra funding under Obama's plan versus another proposal being debated in the Senate.
But even though they have much smaller populations, the leadoff Democratic primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina would not be harmed. Iowa would get an additional $119,824; Nevada would get $86,222 more; and South Carolina would receive $175,027 extra.
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt points out that Obama doesn't determine which states have higher risk and therefore would get more money. Those calculations are made by the Department of Homeland Security, which won't reveal its methods or say just what makes Iowa more vulnerable than, say, New Hampshire.
New Hampshire would have had a drop in funding if Obama's proposal was simply based on risk. But Obama has a provision to ensure that states with an international border would stay at the .45 percent minimum, and New Hampshire's 58-mile dividing line with Canada qualifies it to keep the same amount that it would get in the current Senate bill.
In all, 34 states would get more money under Obama's amendment. That comes largely at the expense of eight smaller population states and the District of Columbia, which would lose more than $1.8 million each under the formula.