Paying for Storm Damage

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According to the New York Times, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s congressional delegation want the federal government to pay for $33 billion in storm damage from Hurricane Sandy plus another $9 billion for preventative measures:

“I understand the fiscal pressures that Washington is under,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I also understand the fiscal pressure that New York is under. And I know that the taxpayers of New York cannot shoulder this burden, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask them to shoulder this burden.”

I suppose one could make the argument that it wouldn’t be “fair” to make New York citizens foot the bill given that New Yorkers have helped pay for the cleanup following natural disasters in other  states. But is it “fair” for the residents of other states to subsidize rebuilding efforts on coastal areas that are prone to natural disasters? Is it “fair” for Gov. Cuomo – rumored to have eyes on running for president – to use Hurricane Sandy as an opportunity to get federal taxpayers to fund infrastructure projects that he would have otherwise had to ask his constituents to pay for?

At some point the trend toward nationalization of disaster assistance needs to be reversed. And with the federal government quickly approaching another brush up against the debt ceiling, now is a good time to start. Sorry, Gov. Cuomo and Gov. Christie (the Times says New Jersey’s bill would be $30 billion), but just because the federal government can more easily borrow $72 billion than the states doesn’t mean that it should. Need money for disaster recovery? Then cut spending for lower priority items in the state budget. Still not enough money? Then provide your citizens with the details on how you plan to spend every dime that you claim is needed for recovery efforts and explain to them why a tax increase is necessary to pay for it.

Alas, it doesn’t look like the governors will have to take the politically inconvenient route. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told the Times that House Speaker Boehner “had committed to providing money to New York State and New Jersey without demanding spending cuts that would offset the appropriations.” That’s the same Rep. King who would be open to tax increases as part of a deal to enable the federal government to keep on overspending.