To help Louisiana rebuild from Hurricane Katrinas powerful blows, the states senators, Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R), have proposed a bill to give it $250 billion in federal aid, including about $180 billion in direct spending. The key question is how much of the massive 10-year plan, announced Sept. 22, Congress will approve. "Its kind of a laundry list," says one industry source. "The basic infrastructure stuff that the economy depends on is the most likely to get favorable consideration." A Senate appropriations aide is noncommittal, saying, "If it gets to the point that appropriations need to be made, then well look into that."
Landrieu acknowledges that the sum she and Vitter are seeking is large. But she says of the hurricanes aftermath, "Its a national tragedy and it needs an unprecedented national response."
|Louisiana Proposal Includes: |
Funding ($ bil.)
|Community Development Block Grants|| |
Corps of Engineers flood control,
|Improving transportation routes |
for evacuation, energy supply
|Water infrastructure repairs|| |
|Road, transit expansion in areas with |
influx of evacuees
|Emergency relief aid for highways, |
other transportation infrastructure
|Port of New Orleans|| |
|Environmental Protection Agency aid to restore Lake |
Pontchartrain, "individual properties and public spaces"
|Rebuilding military facilities, including housing|| |
|Reconstruct, improve New Orleans VA hospital|| |
SOURCE: Office of Sen. Mary Landrieu
Already, Congress has approved $62.3 billion in post-Katrina aid for Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states. In late October, the White House is expected to ask Congress for additional funds and much of it probably will go to Louisiana. For example, the Dept. of Transportation has not yet put in a supplemental request. But state transportation officials estimate Louisiana highway and bridge rebuilding costs at $1.3 billion.
David Conrad, National Wildlife Federation senior water resources specialist, thinks some items in the bills Corps of Engineers section are needed, such as restoring coastal wetlands. But he contends lawmakers threw "everything and the kitchen sink into their proposals, including a whole host of navigation...wish-list projects that theyve had on the table for years and years and are not relevant to the immediate task of restoring the economy and the environment of southeast Louisiana."
The overall package would draw mostly on appropriations, but its sponsors also seek 50% of the revenue from oil and gas leases off Louisianas coast. Under the energy bill enacted in August, Louisiana gets $135 million in annual oil and gas royalties for four years to restore coastal areas. A 50% share would be a big jump. Vitter says that amount recently has ranged from $3 billion to $4 billion annually.
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Spending: Stopgap To Nov. 18 Expected
The staffers say the stopgaps funding levels will be the lowest of three figures: the amount appropriated for a program in fiscal 2005, or the sum provided in the 2006 spending bills that the House or Senate has approved.
As of Sept. 26, only two of the 12 FY 06 spending bills were enacted. There are hopes that House and Senate conferees will agree by Oct. 1 on one more, the homeland security bill, says John Scofield, a House Appropriations Committee spokesman. The others would have to be folded into the "CR."
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