Alaska, Virginia Rank Tops in Grabbing Federal Dollars

Uncle Sam doled out the most federal aid to Alaskans per capita in fiscal 2003 while Virginia got the most bucks in federal contracts, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data released Oct. 7.

Meanwhile, California got the greatest share of defense dollars in 2003 while New York garnered the most federal homeland security aid.

The amount of federal dollars flowing to states is of keen interest to politicians and interest groups that always are looking for more opportunities to tap Washington's reserves.

The data come from two separate reports from the U.S. Census: The 110-page report, "Consolidated Federal Funds," covers benefits, subsidies, grants, goods and services, and salaries and wages and includes charts broken down by state, county and congressional district. The 56-page "Federal Aid to States" looks strictly at grants to states and local governments.

The Census Web site has a "query system" that allows users to search for federal funding levels by state, county and programs.

Overall, per-capita federal spending among states was highest in Alaska, which took in more than $12,200 per person, followed by Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico and North Dakota. Nevada ranked last with more than $5,000 in per-capita federal aid. Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Indiana rounded out the bottom five.

Indiana's low ranking in the line for federal dollars has sparked controversy on the campaign trail between incumbent Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan and Republican challenger Mitch Daniels, former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Daniels vows he would do a better job luring federal grants by creating a state office to help local governments, schools and other entities get their fair share of federal funds.

Some budget experts, however, say even with Daniel's experience as a former overseer of the U.S. federal budget, he may not be able to pull more federal money to the Hoosier State. "Regardless of party or location, an elected official has limited control over the flow of federal funds into and out of the state and little opportunity to spur dramatic changes, said Matt Kane, senior policy analyst at the Northeast-Midwest Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that tracks the amount of federal funds that Northeast and Midwest state receive.

Important factors affecting how much federal money a state gets include the number of federal programs and federal employees in the state. Demographics also is a key driver, as states with many young or older people will draw more funds for federally mandated programs for children and seniors.

This year's report is the first to include a breakdown of Department of Homeland Security grants. In fiscal 2003, New York got the lion's share of the funds, securing $3.8 billion to help with cleanup and recovery efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina were next, receiving disaster assistance money in 2003 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the homeland security department.

States fetching the most overall defense dollars include the two states closest to the Pentagon, which sits just outside Washington, D.C. After California, with $39.2 billion, the states with the most Defense Department funding in 2003 were Virginia ($32.7 billion), Texas ($30.4 billion), Florida ($16.0 billion) and Maryland ($11.4 billion).

For the second year in a row, the Census Bureau is issuing the reports later than its usual April timeframe. Some 20 members of the U.S. House of Representatives raised concerns about the delay in a Sept. 22 letter to the bureau, noting that, "Delays hinder the ability of Congress and the states to assess trends, circumstances and proposals" affecting federal funding. Last year the report came out in June.