The SCAAP tango…

…two steps forward, one step back.

SCAAP stands for State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, the federal government’s reimbursement to state and local governments for the costs of incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens. The office of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sent out a news release about half an hour ago noting the Senate today had unanimously approved her budget amendment increasing SCAAP’s budget authority for FY 2009 to $950 million.

feinstein.jpg“State and local governments bear the burden of incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens, and SCAAP is the only means of reimbursing these costs,” she said in the release. “This is a federal responsibility, and the federal government should not shortchange state and local governments. This would be patently unfair, because it penalizes state and local governments for the failure of federal immigration policy. This amendment will provide much-needed relief to state and local governments.”

Actually, no, it probably won’t — it never does.

President Bush’s FY 2009 budget requested no funding for SCAAP — just as in past years. The Senate Budget Committee voted $417 million for the program, but SCAAP is authorized at $950 million for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2011, so Feinstein’s amendment aims to restore $533 million to the program.

But Congress dances the SCAAP tango every year. The President proposes not to fund it at all. Then some money is restored, then all of it — and then, invariably, it’s pared back by about half. Congress approved $250 million for it in 2003; $296.8 million for 2004; $301 million for 2005; $405 million for 2006; $399 million for 2007; and $410 million for 2008, with governors including Arnold Schwarzenegger — whose state usually gets about 40 percent of the total allocation, but pays out more than $700 million a year to incarcerate illegal immigrant felons — calling for full funding each year and never, ever getting it.

And so, on to the House of Representatives… cha, cha, cha!

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.