- By Maria Recio American-Statesman special correspondent
Texas stands to benefit from the budget deal reached between Senate and House leaders with a considerable injection of disaster relief funds.
The deal includes $89.3 billion to respond to the effects of hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and wildfires and mudslides in California, up from $81 billion in earlier legislation.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican who helped fashion the bill, said that the additional $8 billion is going to funding needs for Texas.
“This was designed with Texas in mind,” Cornyn told reporters Thursday. “While Texans have begun the rebuilding process in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, our state is still in need of resources as we recover from the most extreme rain event in our nation’s history.”
“I applaud the Texas congressional delegation for taking the first step, and I appreciate Gov. (Greg) Abbott and the Senate Appropriations Committee for working with us to strengthen this bill,” Cornyn said.
Abbott criticized the Texas congressional delegation last fall for not pushing hard enough for more money for Harvey relief.
Now, Cornyn said, Abbott is supportive of the package.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, “This latest disaster relief bill is the next step in our state’s road to recovery, and I am gratified that John Cornyn and I have been able to build upon and improve the bill that was sent to us by the House of Representatives to give the state of Texas the resources it desperately needs.”
The bill does not “earmark” funds for Texas specifically but Cornyn said that the increased funds for several of the federal programs will be beneficial to the Lone Star State.
The bill includes:
• $28 billion for Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding, a program of the Housing and Urban Development Administration.
• $17.4 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out flood mitigation projects, including potentially a third reservoir in the Houston area.
• Funding to help Texas address transportation issues in highways and transit resulting from Hurricane Harvey.
• A seed cotton provision for Texas cotton farmers to recover from the cotton crop devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
Lawmakers who represent Central Texas broke along party lines on support for the package, with Lloyd Doggett, the region’s only Democrat, voting “no.”
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, said, “Omissions from this agreement are significant. The doors of government have been slammed shut in the face of those Dreamers who have sought for so long to be assured their future. Some of us are still working to pry these doors open.”
The future of young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children has been put off for debate until next week.
Doggett added that the “bill adds another $300 billion to the national debt.”
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, said, “I support the Bipartisan Budget Act for a number of reasons. First, it provides continued disaster aid for those on the Texas coast affected by Hurricane Harvey. The bill also fully funds our national defense, giving the military long overdue funding it needs.”