Other Voices: Abbott's obstinance undermining federal hurricane recovery efforts
By Houston Chronicle
Dec. 25, 2017 at 9:31 p.m.
'Tis the season for making wish lists. Gov. Greg Abbott ought to get the wrapping paper ready, because a Republican in the White House and a Democrat in the Senate have been asking for something that only he can deliver — a special session to tap the rainy day fund to repair the mess caused by Hurricane Harvey.
After months of waiting, lots of interested parties are running out of patience with the good governor. We don't blame them. How long is it going to take to bring the state's legislators back to Austin?
Last month, the Trump administration made it clear. Rather than rely exclusively on federal resources for Harvey recovery efforts, Texas is going to have to pony up some of its own cash.
"Texas has not put any state dollars into this process," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. "We feel strongly that they should step up and play a role and work with the federal government in this process."
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed the White House's sentiment and put the blame on Abbott for requesting support from his longtime political scapegoat: Washington, D.C.
"On its face, it's an absurd position for a routine critic of the federal government to take," Schumer said. "I for one don't want to vote a nickel for Texas unless they tap that rainy day fund."
There's just one problem. Texas already has dropped plenty of nickels on hurricane recovery. The state has spent about $500 million to support local efforts.
In fact, the governor was in League City, Dickinson and other Houston-area coastal towns last week to distribute funds from the state's general revenue account. Those million-dollar checks will help these cities spend their 10 percent local share necessary to draw down a 90 percent match from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for debris removal.
Eventually those funds will be covered by tapping the $10 billion rainy day fund during the next legislative session.
But the rest of the nation won't be convinced by some technically correct excuse. Politicians in Washington want to see the money wrapped up in a big bow and placed under the tree as proof that, yes Virginia — and New York and D.C. — there is a Santa Claus. Texas actually is paying its fair share in the post-Harvey recovery.
Abbott's recalcitrance has repercussions. The $81 billion disaster recovery bill — which still doesn't cover the state's full post-Harvey request — has hit unexpected tension in the Republican-run Senate after passing the House.
While we understand that primaries are looming, it's time for once to get beyond petty politics and do what is right, what is essential for the well-being of our coastal communities. A fallback position — and it's a distant second choice — is for our state's leader to publicly promise he'll act once the party primary elections are over.
That kind of gesture would show Congress that we're doing our part.
So, governor, our holiday message to you is don't be a Grinch. Put on that white beard and play Santa to millions of people who need your help — and need it now.