By Emily Baker
Killeen Daily Herald
Cleaning up the colossal mess along the Gulf Coast and helping to rebuild the lives of those displaced by Hurricane Katrina will be arduous and expensive, already costing more than $64 billion with reconstruction yet to begin, but raising taxes should not be necessary, a Central Texas legislator said Friday.
Dont plan on any tax cuts for a while, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, said Friday at a Killeen-Heights Rotary Club meeting. I cant tell you if we can do it without raising taxes, but I think we can.
Without raising taxes, deficit spending would be required to pay for the hurricanes aftermath. Because of a rebounding economy, deficit spending will be a strain but will not cause irreparable harm, Carter said.
The use of nearly $52 billion for hurricane relief was approved by Congress on Thursday, which simply will be the first down payment in a long line of bills, Carter said. The entire rebuilding could cost up to $400 billion, he said.
The $51.8 billion relief package approved Thursday will, among other things, allow for the purchase of 100,000 trailers for displaced families to use while their homes are rebuilt, reimbursements to the Defense Department and mitigation activities, whatever that means, Carter said.
The trailers will be placed near a familys home while they rebuild because that speeds up the rebuilding process, Carter said he learned from the Armys Corps of Engineers.
The trailers will be plugged into existing utilities. The Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agency will retain ownership of the trailers, which will be used after future disasters, Carter said.
These are not Cadillac-type, double-wide trailers by any means, Carter said. These are simple trailers to provide some shelter until their homes are rebuilt.
Other efforts are ongoing to help hurricane victims get their lives back to normal.
A bill allowing students attending the universities affected by the hurricane to keep their Pell grants when classes resume was passed Thursday, Carter said. Legislation is underway to reverse a rule that calls for flood insurance collection only if a family does not rebuild in a flood-prone area, he said.
Now, Carter said, is the time to stop the political squabbling about response efforts.
This is not a time to play the blame game, Carter said. It is time to throw politics out the window.
National Guardsmen ar-rived as soon as they were physically able, and FEMA has never been designed as a first-responder, he said.
Regardless, the emotional road to recovery will be difficult for many, Carter acknowledged. He said he is proud of the Central Texas fundraising efforts.
Rotarians have raised nearly $10,000 in the past two weeks, said the clubs president, Bob Reeves.
Rotary District 5870, of which the Killeen-Heights club is a part, has raised about $26,000 for hurricane victims, Reeves said.
Contact Emily Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org