Governor sees welfare as funding model

South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow intrigued several visiting Capitol Hill lawmakers last week by proposing that federal funding for anti-terrorism efforts be modeled after welfare reform, with states given choices on how to use funds for homeland security.

Although some people have pushed for more community control, Janklow, speaking Feb. 26 at the National Governors Association (www.nga.org) winter meeting in Washington, D.C., said there's "no way realistically" for local communities to apply for homeland security funding because they don't have the resources or expertise of larger municipalities.

Under welfare reform, the federal government provided block grants to states, which took different approaches to offering benefits. Janklow said that by applying the welfare reform model to homeland security, states become "laboratories" to improve the first line of defense.

President Bush has proposed $3.5 billion to help the nation's first responders — police, firefighters and emergency ambulance personnel — develop plans, train employees, buy equipment and conduct regular exercises. Under the plan, 75 percent of the funds will go directly to local governments, while 25 percent will be given to the states.

U.S. Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who spoke to the governors on varied issues, said they would support the flexibility of homeland security funds. Portman said funds should be aimed at regional solutions as well.

Another invited speaker, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said states should be free to "implement laboratory creative responses. To not do that would be absurd."

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