Budgeting For The Next Sandy

Oct 31 2012 @ 1:12pm

Suzy Khimm examines the cuts to FEMA in Obama's budget proposal:

Overall, Obama’s budget would reduce FEMA funding by $453 million — a 3 percent cut from 2012 that would bring the agency’s total funding down to $13.5 billion, according to FEMA’s budget estimates ….  That said, FEMA is still protected from new funding cuts that other agencies now face. Under an agreement from last year’s debt-ceiling deal, FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund is exempt from the Budget Control Act’s spending caps. And FEMA is also able to carry over unspent money from one year to the next, which boosted its disaster relief coffers from $7.1 billion to $7.8 billion this year.

Naturally, the Romney-Ryan ticket has declined to clarify specific cuts. But Henry Blodget examines Romney's previous comments on the issue:

Romney wanted to cut "disaster relief." Not FEMA. Not other government spending to pay for disaster relief. Just disaster relief. (And, by the way, for those who think what Romney meant was that he wants states and local governments to handle disaster relief, Hurricane Sandy is a perfect example of why this approach is ludicrous and inefficient when dealing with disasters that cross state and local lines. Can you imagine if all the governors of all the states affected by Sandy had to agree with each other and coordinate before they did anything to help each other? The federal government has a place in our society. And disaster relief is part of that place.)

Josh Barro's view:

[A] downward shift of fiscal responsibilities is a key component of Romney's policy agenda, most notably in Medicaid, which he would convert into a slow-growing block grant. Over time, states would be forced to pick up an increasing share of the program's costs. That is a very bad idea: State governments are in a much weaker position to shoulder rising health-care costs than the federal government is. They are also not as well-positioned to pay for disaster relief, an expense which comes in infrequent and quasi-random bursts. But these are the sorts of changes you might make if you were trying to meet an arbitrary cap on federal spending.