Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Talk turning to how to pay for Katrina relief, states reimbursements

DentonRC.com | News for Denton, Texas | AP: Texas

In their third week of dealing with Hurricane Katrina's devastation, lawmakers turned their attention on ways to cut spending to help pay for the deadly storm.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said dumping some projects in the highway bill that President Bush has signed, including some for his district, was a possibility. But he also said he was reluctant to open the new law.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said getting money to reimburse Texas for the costs associated with accepting thousands of sheltering thousands of evacuees is going more slowly than she thought and has kept her scrambling for days.

"I'm trying to slap this horse on the back and make to go faster and it's about to buck me off," she said. "I hope that people realize that one state should not have to foot the bill for the whole country."

As costs for responding to Katrina mount, Republicans — pushed by conservative members — have begun looking for ways to offset the costs, essentially by cutting spending in other programs.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she's willing to give up spending on some highway projects for her home state California to help pay for the cost of Katrina.

DeLay was asked at an afternoon round-table with reporters whether he'd do the same.

"I'd look at it," he said. But he added that highway projects he helped get funded for his district in Texas "are pretty important to building an economy in that region."

Delay is credited with securing $114 million in highway bill projects, according to the tally of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group that tracks the spending. That amount included $50 million for the Interstate 69 highway corridor and $64.4 million for local projects in his district.

DeLay also helped get a provision in a provision for Houston's public transit agency, crediting it for state and local funds already spent on its rail line. The provision is valued at $324 million, the taxpayer group said.


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