September 23, 2005
Louisiana's Senators, Mary Landrieu (D)
and David Vitter (R), have proposed legislation to provide
about $250 billion in federal aid to help their state rebuild
from Hurricane Katrina. The massive, 10-year plan, contained
in a bill introduced on Sept. 22, includes about $180 billion
in direct federal spending, Vitter said. The rest would represent
the cost of various tax breaks.
But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and several
other GOP colleagues want at least some of the federal hurricane
relief spending to be offset with spending cuts. Among their
suggestions: a 5% across-the-board cut in discretionary spending
other than defense and homeland security; and rescinding $24
billion in earmarked highway projects in the recently enacted
highway and transit authorization bill.
Already, Congress has approved $62.3
billion in post-Katrina relief aid for Louisiana and other
Gulf Coast states. The Office of Management and Budget has
said it further spending would be requested.
The Landrieu-Vitter package would draw
most of its funds from federal appropriations, but they also
are seeking 50% of the revenue from oil and gas leases off
their state's coast. Vitter says that 50% share of lease payments
recently has ranged between $3 billion and $4 billion annually.
Those revenues would go for restoration of coastal wetlands
and barrier islands as well as infrastructure.
The energy bill signed into law in August
provides Louisiana with $135 million in oil and gas lease
revenue annually for four years to be used for coastal restoration
The new plan also includes more than
$16 billion for transportation, of which $2.9 billion would
be emergency relief aid to repair highways and other infrastructure;
and $50 billion in Community Development Block Grants "to
provide disaster relief and promote long term recovery"
in the affected area, according to a summary of the bill prepared
by Landrieu's staff.
There also would be $40 billion that
an envisioned new "Pelican Commission" would use
for Corps of Engineers hurricane and flood protection, coastal
restoration and navigation projects."
Landrieu says she recognizes that the
sum she and Vitter are seeking is large, but she says of the
hurricane's aftermath, "It's not a local problem. It's
not a state problem. It's a national tragedy and it needs
an unprecedented national response."
The legislation also would allot $150
million to the National Park Service for historic preservation
grants "to owners of historic structures and artifacts
affected by Hurricane Katrina," says the bill summary.
The non-federal matching share for the grants will be 25%,
instead of the usual 50%.The non-federal match could be cash
or services, labor or equipment. The program would be administered
together with the State Historic Preservation Office and National
Center for Preservation Technology and Training in Natchitoches,
In addition, the measure would provide
$30 million to the Park Service for preservation grants for
National Historic Landmarks, plus $8 million to technical
assistance and training for people who want to restore historic
property, and $20 million for the Trust's preservation services.