Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus, testified today before the House Committee on the Budget addressing the critical need to safeguard the Victims of Crime Fund (VOCA) and fully restore funding levels.
Federal bureaucrats see a Fund with over a billion dollars in it and instantly want to touch it. But its not their money to touch, said Poe. The Crime Victims Fund has $1.7 billion this year. Next year, it will be $1.9 billion. Every year, the fund grows larger, but every year the government lowers the amount available for VOCA grants.
VOCA was established by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. This Fund is solely supported by fees and fines collected from convicted federal felons no tax dollars are used to fund VOCA. The Fund helps pay restitution to victims and provides federal funding for domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and other victim-oriented organizations.
Over the last few years, the cap on funding to victims and support agencies from the VOCA Fund has been cut each year. In addition, the Justice Department is assessing a surcharge at the rate of 5.5% to administer the Fund, equaling $32.45 million this year alone.
The Justice Department does not have the legal authority to do this and is doing so without Congressional approval, stated Poe. The Justice Departments budget is being cut so it wants to steal money from victims of crime to make up for the difference.
The Administration recommends rescinding the Crime Victims Fund abolishing the $1.7 billion Fund. This would drain the Fund, combine offender revenue with taxpayer funds, and allow the Administration to use the funds for other pet projects, continued Poe. Victims should not be forced to wage an annual fight over a Fund that was created for their sole benefit.
The Administrations 2009 budget proposal also includes another $52 million cut for state assistance, a total of $159 million in cuts since 2006. In order to offset these cuts and restore funding to the 2006 level, Congress will have to raise the Fund to $770 million in Fiscal Year 2009.
Mr. Chairman, I urge you to ensure that the 2009 VOCA cap is at least $770 million, Poe concluded. Crime victims do not have high dollar lobbyists here in Washington, DC to advocate on their behalf. Victims expect us, Members of Congress, to advocate on their behalf. They were victims of crime and we cannot let federal bureaucrats continue to victimize them. It is important that we do not let the bureaucrats raid the Crime Victims Fund and use that money for other purposes. Bureaucrats must find that money somewhere else. This money belongs to crime victims and needs to be left alone.
Congressman Poe is the founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus. As a former criminal court judge and prosecutor for over 30 years in Houston, Texas, Poe is recognized nationally for his creative sentencing of criminals and as a dedicated advocate for victims and children.