More Bad News from a Lame Duck President: Bush Wants to Steal Money from Salmon Fishermen for 2010 Census
I was appalled and shocked to read that President Bush is proposing to take $70 million from the $180 million salmon disaster relief funds included in the farm bill to pay for the census. My family is supported by commercial fishing, and following a poor dungeness crab season, fisherman along the West Coast are really hurting financially. Many captains can’t afford to make their boat payments, let alone their mortgages and skyrocketing fuel prices. Taking money from salmon fisherman equates to taking money from food stamps programs to fund the census. People’s livelihoods are at stake, and West Coast representatives and governors are reeling at Bush’s suggestion.
Why do we need more money for the census? The money is needed because of a failed contract with the Harris Corporation for the 2010 counts. The Census Bureau had planned to use handheld computers, but the Florida-based contractor went over budget. Now, we have to return to a paper-based census, which will cost taxpayers more money. Instead of trying to take money from fisherman to pay for a failed contract, shouldn’t we reevaluate the census itself? Is it really necessary to complete this population count every ten years? Could we modify the count to every 15 or 20 years?
West Coast governors and congress men/women are upset at Bush’s proposal. In an angry letter to the president, Democrats Mike Thompson, Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley, Anna Eshoo, Jim McDermott, Brian Baird, Doris Matsui, Lois Capps, Lynn Woolsey, Earl Blumenauer, David Wu, Rick Larson, Sam Farr and Jay Inslee wrote:
This proposal is especially egregious when you consider that your administration’s water policies on all of the Pacific Northwest’s major salmon rivers are the reason this disaster funding is needed in the first place. These failed policies have resulted in over 80,000 dead adult salmon in the Klamath River, record low returns to the Sacramento and Columbia/Snake River systems, two fishery disaster declarations issued by the Secretary of Commerce and two years of fishing closures impacting thousands of families and small business.
The states of California, Oregon and Washington estimated this year’s closure alone will have a $290 million impact on these fishing communities. Scientists expect similar low returns to the Sacramento next year and another closed season for most of the West Coast. To suggest that the money to pay for this contract mistake is diverted from emergency disaster payments is yet another blow delivered by your administration to the fishing families and small businesses in the Pacific Northwest. It is a clear sign that your administration is not committed to protecting these river systems and has no interest in helping the fishing communities and economies reliant on them.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) added:
The fishing community of Oregon is already suffering because of the flawed Bush policies in the Sacramento River basin. They should not have to suffer again because the president has hired people in Florida who can’t count. We’ve been there before.
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire issued the following statement:
I am angered and deeply discouraged that the Bush administration would even consider reducing the emergency aid dedicated to Pacific salmon fishers. This action represents complete disregard for the thousands of families who rely on a strong salmon season for their livelihoods…The salmon industry is fragile, and I am extremely concerned for the families and small businesses already affected by the decline of salmon stocks. The economic loss to Washington, Oregon and California combined is expected to total nearly $300 million and result in the loss of more than 4,000 jobs. Both the U.S. House and Senate overwhelmingly approved $170 million to assist struggling salmon fishers. I now implore the president to listen to the families and communities that have been affected and to keep the original emergency funding intact.
The salmon relief disaster money is not perfect, but it is at least something. Many fisherman were angered after the last checks were received, as they felt it was distributed unfairly. We had to send an appeal when our amount was miscalculated based on past catches. Fisherman want to fish, they don’t just want to collect checks; however, with a complete closure, they have no choice. Taking money from salmon fisherman to fund the census is unconscionable.
Related posts on the West Coast Salmon Disaster: