WASHINGTON — The House will vote on the first portion of a Hurricane Sandy aid package Friday, but it will not contain any municipal bond provisions and it’s unlikely they will be included in future amendments.
Bowing to pressures from Republican members in storm-affected regions of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio., announced Wednesday that there would be a vote on an additional $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another vote for $51 billion of Sandy relief on Jan. 15.
The $60 billion aid package is likely to resemble the bill the Senate approved on Dec. 28. That bill mirrored the Obama administration’s request for Congress to provide $60.4 billion of federal aid, including at least $24.6 billion for transportation projects and state and local grants or loans, but no new bonding authority.
“We are glad that Congress is helping the victims of the Sandy storm but definitely still looking for assistance in the form of private activity bonds down the road to further assist the redevelopment and strengthening of the area,” said Jason Rittenberg, research and resources coordinator with the Council of Development Finance Agencies.
Soon after Superstorm Sandy hit, the CDFA and three other muni market groups sent draft legislation to Congress to create special Hurricane Sandy Recovery Bonds to help businesses and residents in the Mid-Atlantic region still reeling from storm-related destruction to rebuild.
The special recovery bonds modeled after federal financing programs used for past hurricanes such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Market groups had worked with Republican and Democratic members from the House and Senate for a muni-bond Sandy aid package. Even though Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and a separate group of House members led by Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., each proposed bills that contained muni bond provisions, they were never brought to the floor for a vote.
The CDFA is still urging congressional members to include muni bond provisions in a final Sandy package, however there appears to be little appetite for financings involving private entities, Rittenberg said.
Boehner’s decision to cancel any action on a Sandy aid bill earlier this week caused outrage among members of his own party and governors from the north east.
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., even threatened not to vote for Boehner’s re-election as Speaker of the House and urged New Yorkers not to contribute to Republican members.
“The people in my party, they wonder why they are becoming a minority party,” King said. “They’re writing off New York. They’re writing off New Jersey. Well, they’ve written me off. And they are going to have a hard time getting my vote, I can tell you that.”
One of the most outspoken governors was Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey who said that New York and New Jersey have been waiting “six times longer than the victims of Katrina with no end in sight.”
“Sixty-six days and counting, shame on you. Shame on Congress,” Christie said in a press conference Wednesday.
Sandy was the “single most destructive natural disaster in 2012,” CoreLogic, an Irvine, Calif.-based real estate research firm said in an analysis Thursday.
In late October, the Category 1 storm generated record levels of storm surge along the northern New Jersey coast and in the New York City area, effecting more than 5 million residents across the region. The total economic destruction along the east coast could reach up to $50 billion.