Gov. Cuomo kicked off the third week of Sandy by getting everyone fixated on a number: $30 billion. Thats what the governor figures New York has lost — and what he thinks would be "fair" for Congress and President Obama to give it. But getting money to rebuild doesnt help if you dont spend it on the right stuff.
Cuomo was aggressive this week.
"This is a very clear case," he said. Considering that other regions, including New Orleans after Katrina, have gotten special post-disaster funding cash, "the equity and the fairness is inarguable."
Yes, the city and state (and Jersey, too) have suffered a huge blow. Look around, even in parts of the city that didnt take a direct hit.
Manhattan is not as crowded as it should be. Transit, especially across the Hudson, is a fraction of what it was. When commuters cant come to work, they cant buy lunch, cant have a drink with friends, cant meet the spouse to see a show. That alone adds up to a big loss.
Plus, think of people who are looking at tens of thousands of dollars worth of repairs — and more. People know that insurance can be slow and wont cover everything, or even most things — meaning theyll pull back on Christmas shopping, intensifying the economic hit.
But its simplistic for New York to think because its suffered a $30 billion hit, it should get $30 billion from DC. Some losses, for starters, are irrecoverable. Moreover, the governor is asking without knowing what New York needs.
Take transportation infrastructure. The South Ferry subway station will need cash, as will the A train to Far Rockaway. Weve got to think about how to protect links like the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel from flooding.
Can it all be done? How much would it cost? Is the cost worth it?
We have no idea, really. This stuff could cost $300 million — or $10 billion. Or somewhere in between.
Similarly, we have no idea of the damage to homes. After Katrina, the feds approved nearly $9 billion in grants to 129,906 Louisiana homeowners to rebuild or move, an average of $69,000. (The feds first subtracted insurance money from grants.)
The same approach here might cost $4 billion, if we think about the 60,000 homes in New York state that appear, at first glance, to be so badly damaged that they cant safely get power.
Or it could cost less, or far more.
How can anyone know whether these two things alone — plus small-business and local-government grants that Cuomo wants — add up to $30 billion, or $15 billion or $50 billion?
There are also long-term questions.
If New York gets 100 percent reimbursement from the feds for all its overtime costs and the like, as Cuomo also wants, will Albany end up sending billions to Washington later to pay for disasters in other states?
Remember, New York sends more to Washington than it gets back, receiving 79 cents for every dollar it pays in taxes, according to the Tax Foundation. Yet, big "winners," including Louisiana and Mississippi, will have storms again. The more each gets reimbursed, the more New Yorkers pay.
Plus, would it be better to spend most of "our" money on infrastructure, including flood protection, under the reasoning that such spending will improve the property values of people who rebuild, anyway? And why is it fair to give someone extra money to rebuild after a storm, but not, say, after one solitary house burns down?
Cuomo might argue that we can figure it out later — the thing is to get the free cash. But after 9/11, its because the state and city thought federal money was "free" that they wasted so much of it on grand architectural schemes like the PATH train hub downtown and subsidies for Midtown office development — and then borrowed billions and hiked tolls when these projects ran out of money.
Cuomo might argue, too, that this is how the game is played. If we dont get our $30 billion now, something else will happen somewhere — and Congress will forget us.
Thats part of the problem with present-day Washington, and state pols who play along.
If Sandy is supposed to make us re-think everything, maybe we should rethink the post-9/11, post-Katrina approach to disaster funding.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/cuomo_ny_cash_grab_MaQLRuv1QpZprIJFhwVhQL