- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who holds President Bush’s former job, told Congress yesterday that the federal government has turned its back on Texas. He demanded an additional $2 billion for rebuilding and other hurricane-related costs in Texas.

Mr. Perry criticized the federal response to the devastating storms, saying that states slammed by Hurricane Katrina are getting more help than his state, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Rita.

“Financial aid has been a fraction of what was promised,” Mr. Perry told the Senate Appropriations Committee. Funding for housing, education and community development has been shortchanged, he said.

Mr. Perry’s comments were made as four Gulf Coast governors came to Washington to press for funding for relief and rebuilding. Total spending on the devastated region is heading toward the $100 billion mark, but considerably more will be needed, said Govs. Bob Riley, Alabama Republican; Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Louisiana Democrat; and Haley Barbour, Mississippi Republican.

The Bush request for hurricane relief along the Gulf Coast includes $4.2 billion in flexible community development block grants aimed at compensating Louisiana residents whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. Louisiana officials said their state was shortchanged when Congress approved $11.5 billion in such funds in December.

“We have been waiting for this funding since President Bush made his moving speech on Jackson Square in September,” Mrs. Blanco said. “Please do not make us wait any longer.”

The Senate hearing came a day before its House counterpart was to vote on a $91 billion emergency spending bill providing $19 billion in new aid to the region.

But the House measure, while providing the $4.2 billion in housing-related community development funds, declined to dedicate that money to Louisiana. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican, also has indicated that he’s inclined against dedicating housing relief to just Louisiana.

Nor does the House bill satisfy the demands of Texas. House Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield said Mr. Perry’s demands include about $300 million for a private utility company and funding to reimburse the state for the matching funds it provided to be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relief funds, which are costs that are not funded as part of hurricane-relief bills, Mr. Scofield said.

Generally speaking, the owners of homes that sustained wind damage have been far more likely to receive settlements from insurance companies, while those whose homes were destroyed by a flood surge have had to turn to the federal government.

Mr. Barbour said that Mississippi plans to use $4 billion in already appropriated funds to rebuild destroyed homes, and that FEMA has provided almost $8 billion more for state and federal relief activity, though an additional $6 billion to $8 billion ultimately will be needed.

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