Texas: Aid deserved if we rebuild wisely

Published 12:08 pm Friday, February 9, 2018


Pity those stalwart fiscal conservatives who represent Texas in Washington.

We usually count ourselves among their allies, and fully appreciate how profligate spending imperils our country every day.

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Then came that August storm, which battered the Texas coast from Corpus Christi to Orange. Across 41 Texas counties, Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey dumped rainfall in record-breaking, relentless amounts. Damages to infrastructure and personal property, much of it located outside recognized flood zones, was astounding.

Jefferson County knows this better than anyone. A study of Federal Emergency Management Agency applications for assistance showed need was greatest in a Port Arthur zip code. More households suffered property damage than didn’t in our community.

Our countrymen in New York and New Jersey have not forgotten that U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz opposed big aid to those states after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. So it can’t be easy for either of them to wander Capitol Hill, palms upward, telling their colleagues, “No, we need more.”

Yet we do. Gov. Greg Abbott’s Commission to Rebuild Texas makes a compelling case that the Texas coast must be rebuilt, that it is too valuable to America to shortchange or ignore.

The U.S. House of Representatives showed its understanding of the need by upping federal disaster aid packages within the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

On the Senate floor, Cornyn lamented the lag time between disaster and response.

“The House passed an $81 billion relief package at the end of last year, and here we are a couple of months later before we actually are acting on this disaster relief package,” he said. “It’s long overdue.”

Indeed it is. It’s one thing to argue in Washington, D.C., the fine points of financial help for devastated counties a half-country away. It’s quite another for people to be marooned in hotel rooms, out of their homes and not sure of their next step as they await action from their national leaders.

U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendwood, in making the case for more aid last fall in the House, contended that Harvey and related flooding ranked as the second-most costly natural disaster after only Fukushima in Japan.

“The people of Texas need and deserve federal assistance for long-term flood mitigation, which this request does not sufficiently provide,” he said.

Abbott said about 61 percent of aid in Texas would go toward flood control, about a third to housing. The rest would go to hazard mitigation, roadways and water services projects.

Texas should complement its pitch for aid with commitment to planning and development reform. Too many Texas homes were destroyed in areas where little heed was paid to flood threats.

If we want help, we ought to earn it by learning from those past mistakes.