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Obama budget would boost Brookhaven lab funding, cut money for LI Sound restoration

President Barack Obama delivers the State of The

President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address before a joint session of Congress on the floor of the US House of Representatives in the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Jan. 20, 2015. Credit: EPA / Mandel Ngan/ Pool

WASHINGTON -- Funding would increase for homeland security and the Brookhaven National Lab but would drop by a quarter for the Long Island Sound in the $4 trillion budget request unveiled by President Barack Obama Monday.

Obama's proposal for spending priorities for the fiscal year 2016 that starts Oct. 1 begins negotiations with Congress. While New York's senators praised the budget, the members of the Long Island delegation to the U.S. House offered ways to improve it.

"The priorities outlined by the president, like a significant increase in infrastructure spending and programs to combat the prescription drug epidemic, are a promising first step," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "Now, both parties will have to meet in the middle to get anything done."

Yet Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) warned about its costly spending. "The president's proposal not only neglects the need to balance the budget," he said, "but his proposal actually increases the deficit."

Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Steve Israel (D-Huntington) criticized the proposed budget's cut of money to fund restoration and stewardship of Long Island Sound to $2.89 million, a drop of $1 million from its current $3.94 million.

"I disagree with the president's proposal to eliminate the congressionally directed funding increase," Rice said. Israel said he'd use his post on the Appropriations Committee to ensure funding is restored.

Rice and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), both members of the Homeland Security Committee, approved of Obama's request for homeland security funding.

But King said he would fight the proposal to consolidate counterterrorism grants -- particularly the Urban Area Security Initiative, which aids high-risk targets such as New York City -- into one program. He said that could dilute funding.

Brookhaven National Laboratory would get a boost to $481.2 million from its current $461.9 million, Rice and Zeldin said.

"It's great that this budget would provide more funding to Brookhaven National Laboratory," Rice said. "But that's still more than $50 million short of what they were receiving the year before. We have to get back to that aggressive level of investment."

Rice also criticized the proposed budget's move to reallocate funding for the Veterans Choice Program, which gives veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related mental illnesses a chance to seek care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I don't see any reason to reallocate those funds," she said, especially since the budget would raise VA funding by 8 percent.

Schumer also praised the budget for consolidating six overlapping education provisions into two while improving a tax credit to offer up to $2,500 each year over five years for college students.

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