Joining New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie revised his estimate upward in asking for disaster relief funds to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, seeking $36.8 billion.
The additional money would be used to reengineer beaches, including additional sand dunes, to protect the shoreline against future storms. Last week, state officials asked for $29.4 billion in federal funds to offset emergency response and repair costs.
“I’ve called this ‘Our Katrina’ because the damage to New Jersey is like nothing we’ve ever experienced in our state’s history,” Christie said at a Statehouse news conference.
So this would include prevention efforts, which are definitely needed in a post-global warming world to protect against future storms.
There’s a deep irony here. The last time Christie was dealing with federal money, he turned down an appropriation of funding to build a new transit tunnel under the Hudson River, totally sinking the project. It then came out that Christie lied about the funding costs of the project, claiming that New Jersey would get stuck with 70% of the bill, when in reality the figure was closer to 14%. He also lied about cost overruns on the project.
So now, a couple years later, when his state is suffering, here comes Christie hat in hand, asking the same federal government whose money he rejected for an appropriation. Incidentally, a finished rail tunnel built to current standards that would give New Jerseyites more transit options would have come in handy after the storm, as well as in the future, given the expected crush of congestion.
We should keep the past in the past in this case. New Jersey’s citizens would suffer from any grudge-holding, not Christie, whose approval rating has jumped in the wake of the storm. It’s probably true that Christie is inflating the costs needed for cleanup and relief. He’s probably trying to ensure no increase in the gas tax or corporate taxes to pay for the damages. But he’s also the right combination of hardass/media darling that could actually move Congress to act. Christie said he plans to work in tandem with New York on acquiring funding, which broadens the base of support.
It remains a longshot, which is really stunning. A large, heavily populated area of the country, home to much of the nation’s media, was destroyed during a massive storm. There are clear human needs along the East Coast, which will cost a lot of money to satisfy. And Congress has so far not lifted a finger. FEMA money won’t cover the damages; we’re going to need additional emergency funding. But Washington is so consumed with actuarial projections 30 years in the future that they cannot manage to attend to a giant problem staring them in the face.
Photo by Tim Larsen of the Governor’s Office via Talk Radio News Service under Creative Commons license.