Federal Aid for New York Faces Hurdle in CongressBy RAYMOND HERNANDEZ
New York Times
November 13, 2012
WASHINGTON — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s request for $30 billion in federal disaster aid for the State of New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy faces significant hurdles in Congress, and it may take weeks, if not months, before action is taken on it, Congressional officials said on Monday.
Mr. Cuomo’s request, which has yet to be formally introduced, comes at a politically difficult time in Washington, as President Obama and Congressional leaders in both parties prepare to undertake difficult negotiations this week aimed at averting a fiscal crisis.
The main resistance to Mr. Cuomo’s plan is likely to come from conservative lawmakers, who have already begun to indicate an unwillingness to approve additional disaster relief spending — at least not until an existing pot of money set aside for disasters is exhausted.
Republicans and some Democrats point out that Congress has already allotted $7.1 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has the authority to come up with an additional $5 billion if necessary.
In an interview, Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for Representative Hal Rogers, a Republican from Kentucky who is chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, suggested that additional appropriations were not necessary at the moment.
“Before we release another round of federal dollars, let’s have all the information we need to make the best possible decision,” she said. “Congress has already approved $7.1 billion, and FEMA has not indicated that more is needed at this point.”
Mr. Cuomo’s proposal may get more support in the Democrat-led Senate, where Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana who heads the appropriations subcommittee overseeing disaster-related funds, recently acknowledged the need for a supplemental appropriations bill providing aid to states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, declined to comment on the specifics of Mr. Cuomo’s request but said “the administration continues to provide all available resources to support our state and local partners.”
Among other things, Mr. Cuomo’s plan seeks $3.5 billion to repair the region’s bridges, tunnels and subway and commuter rail lines; $1.65 billion to rebuild homes and apartment buildings; and $1 billion to reimburse local governments for overtime paid to police, fire and other emergency personnel.
Mr. Cuomo has been reaching out to Republicans and Democrats in the state’s Congressional delegation to try to build support for his proposal. But in interviews on Monday, some lawmakers warned that elements of Mr. Cuomo’s proposal were likely to stir up significant resistance.
In particular, they noted, the governor’s plan goes beyond seeking money for disaster relief — and proposes using federal disaster money aid to make major improvements to the city and the state’s aging infrastructure.
For example, Mr. Cuomo wants to replace the region’s power grid — at a cost of $30 billion over 10 years — with a so-called smart grid that would improve the ability of utility companies to pinpoint areas with power failures and respond to them.
The governor, these lawmakers said, faces an uphill battle trying to persuade Congress and Mr. Obama to set aside money to pay for such a project in the name of disaster recovery aid.
“Some items are going to be easier than others,” said Representative Peter T. King, a Republican on Long Island who expressed support for the governor’s plan. “A short-term medical emergency will be easier to resolve than long-term infrastructure improvements.”
Senator Charles E. Schumer said: “New York suffered unprecedented damage in so many different ways from Superstorm Sandy. We haven’t seen any of the governor’s numbers or proposals, but we will work to get the maximum amount of federal aid possible for New York.”