White House Formally Opposes Levee Spending, Fair Hurricane Recovery Funding Rules
Promises veto of Supplemental Appropriations bill.
WASHINGTON - President Bush intends to veto an emergency spending bill currently being considered by Congress and specifically opposes funding in it for Louisiana levee repairs and measures to extend fair hurricane recovery funding rules to the state, according to an official Statement of Administration Policy released late yesterday and available on the White House web site (http://tinyurl.com/2ovv84).
The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill drafted in the House of Representatives includes $1.3 billion to cover a shortfall for east and west bank levee projects in New Orleans and surrounding parishes. The projects were originally authorized in the 3rd supplemental in 2005 but have exceeded original cost estimates due to post-hurricane labor and material shortages. It also includes a waiver of the 10 percent cost share required of Hurricane Katrina-, Rita- and Wilma-affected communities for disaster recovery projects. After Sen. Landrieu's FAIR Funding Amendment to the 9/11 Commission bill, which waived the 10 percent match, was blocked by Republicans from an up-or-down vote, she secured a commitment from the Senate leadership that the waiver would be included in the Senate version of the supplemental as well.
"President Bush made what sounded like substantive promises to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast when he spoke in Jackson Square after Hurricane Katrina," Sen. Landrieu said. "Today, he's threatening to veto an emergency spending bill, which he asked for, if it includes provisions that would advance the recovery of the region and increase levee funding."
"We need to make sure that the levee and flood protection projects in the region are fully funded to protect our communities. Yet the president opposes funding needed for these levee projects.
"The scope of devastation from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is unlike any natural disaster in our history. Communities collapsed, and to date, many Louisianians have yet to be able to return home. The President could wipe away much of the red tape involved in the recovery effort by waiving the 10 percent match on public assistance with a stroke of his pen. Yet he has refused to waive it, and opposes Congress doing it legislatively."
"Despite the President's opposition, I will fight to ensure that these provisions remain in the Supplemental so that the region can recover and our communities can rebuild."
Administration opposition to $1.3 billion: "The Administration opposes the $1.3 billion in unrequested funding the bill provides to address increased costs for certain ongoing levee restoration projects that were provided in supplemental funding in P.L. 109-234."
In the President's fiscal 2008 budget, he sought to shuffle $1.3 billion from one set of levee projects to another, simply moving the shortfall to other levee projects. Sen. Landrieu is seeking to fund the shortfall in the supplemental so that the Army Corps of Engineers can continue with its levee and flood control projects for both the West Bank and East Bank, without undermining one to fund the other.
Administration opposition to 10 percent match waiver: "The Administration opposes a waiver of the State match requirement."
The Robert T. Stafford Act requires localities to match 10 percent of the cost for disaster recovery projects before the remaining 90 percent is filled by the federal government. With local tax bases devastated by the hurricanes and the provision's excessive paperwork requirements for each of the 23,000 public assistance projects in Louisiana alone, the match has become a significant obstacle to Gulf Coast recovery.
President Bush has the authority to waive the onerous requirement without legislation when per capita rebuilding costs become excessive -- a presidential authority that has been exercised 32 times since 1985. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush waived the requirement when the per capita recovery cost of Hurricane Andrew reached $139. It was also waived for New York City following the attacks of September 11th, where the per capita cost totaled $390. But despite a $6,700 per capita recovery cost following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Administration has thus far refused repeated requests for such a waiver, prompting Sen. Landrieu's efforts to waive the requirement legislatively.
Administration veto threat: "Because of the excessive and extraneous non-emergency spending it contains, if this legislation were presented to the President, he would veto the bill."