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End Unconscionable Raid on Crime Victims Fund

  |  Pat Toomey November 13, 2015

How bad is Washington's addiction to overspending and budget gimmicks?

It is so bad that Congress and President Obama are willing to steal money from victims of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes to fund more wasteful spending.

Seriously.

The flawed budget deal that Congress recently passed takes $1.5 billion from a fund dedicated solely to victims of crime to pay for new spending and bust the spending caps established under the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011. Keep in mind that the money in the Crime Victims Fund is not taxpayer money; this is money the federal government collects from those convicted of crimes via fines and penalties, and - under federal law - it may be spent only to aid victims of crime.

And these funds are greatly needed by crime victims and the organizations that are dedicated to assisting them. These resources ensure that victims of child sexual abuse obtain the counseling they desperately need, provide rape victims with legal and medical assistance, and help victims of domestic violence obtain the shelters they rely upon to escape their abusers.

But rather than helping crime victims, Washington again has decided to take money away from them as part of a budget gimmick to justify more overspending.

This is unconscionable.

The budget deal's raid of the Crime Victims Fund is a slap in the face for victims, and it is one of the reasons I voted against the deal. Other elected officials, including Democratic officials from Pennsylvania, share my opposition to stealing money from the fund.

For example, Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, wrote that the budget deal "puts in danger our commitment to victims of crime throughout our country" by taking away money from programs helping "the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and many other violent crimes."

Democratic members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives sent a joint letter to Congress complaining that the budget deal works to "the detriment of crime victims" and stating that the budget deal's tapping of the fund "is a terrible precedent."

I could not agree more. Congress must stop using the Crime Victims Fund as a piggy bank for wasteful overspending and start putting crime victims first.

That is why I have introduced the Fairness for Victims of Crime Act to end this injustice. This commonsense legislation requires the Crime Victims Fund to disburse what it brings in each year to crime victims - essentially, to do what was originally intended when the fund was established in 1984.

Under my proposal, groups in Pennsylvania and across the country that assist victims of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes will see available funds more than quadruple - rising from under $18 million in 2014 to $80 million in 2016. The Senate Budget Committee approved this legislation in June, and it currently awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

The budget deal's misuse of money from the Crime Victims Fund highlights why my legislation is needed more than ever. I am not going to stop fighting for its passage.

Clearly, there is bipartisan support for ending Washington's misuse of the fund. Now it's up to Congress and the president to act and stop this outrageous practice.