Planning, restraint needed in storm rebuilding efforts

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005

The one-two punch of last month’s Hurricane Katrina followedthis weekend by Hurricane Rita has dealt a costly blow to GulfCoast states from Texas to Florida as well as to the federalgovernment.

In the days after Katrina roared from the gulf to deliver deathand vast destruction, President Bush and Congress swiftly beganappropriating money to pay for relief, recovery and repairoperations. Considering the size and strength of Rita, there islittle doubt that storm has produced terrible destruction aswell.

Already Congress has approved at least $62 billion for Katrinarelief, and the projected tab for the entire operation tops $200billion. Those numbers are sure to grow once Rita’s wrath isfactored in.

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While few would deny that the Gulf Coast region so devastated bythese monster storms must be rebuilt, a growing chorus of fiscalconservatives and others is questioning how quickly federal moneyshould be spent where it should come from.

While many Democratic leaders have said there is no choice butto raise taxes, Bush has thankfully dismissed that idea – at leastat the outset. What he has not done, though, is give details of howhe expects the nation to fund the extensive rebuilding effort.

A group of congressional Republicans late last week proposedspending cuts as one way to offset some of the cost of the recoveryeffort. Hats off to them. There are certainly many places to cutfat from the federal budget (the recently passed and pork-ladenhighway bill, for example), and not a single tax increase should beconsidered until spending is cut to the bone.

Hurricane recovery – like any other project – cannot beaccomplished simply by throwing money at the problem. Restraint anddeliberate thought are imperative – both in spending and in findingthe money.