Frankenstorm and Funding
As we begin the work of recovering from Hurricane Sandy and the resulting “Frankenstorm,” WAND, with offices in Washington, DC and Massachusetts, is grateful that we have local and federal agencies that helped us prepare for the storm and will now help us get back to work. As the storm cut across states, it served as a reminder that we need a federal government working with state and local government. And that federal government needs appropriate funding to prevent disasters when possible and to respond to them when they are unavoidable.
WAND has long raised concerns about excessive Pentagon spending starving other parts of the discretionary budget, the money that Congress appropriates annually. This tradeoff is clearer than ever as we face the possibility of automatic spending cuts (“sequestration”) to both Pentagon spending and all other domestic priorities next year. Already FEMA is slated to lose nearly $900 million in funding under sequestration, but some members of Congress are desperate to exempt Pentagon spending from any reductions, despite its continued growth for the past 13 years. A plan passed by House Republicans earlier in the spring would replace the sequester cuts with increased Pentagon spending and deeper cuts for all other programs, including possibly FEMA.
Additionally, the budget proposed last year by Congressman Ryan would cut funding for FEMA, shifting the unexpected costs associated with hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes and other natural disasters to already cash-strapped states and local governments. And the Washington Post writes, “Romney has vowed to cut federal spending to less than 20 percent of GDP by 2016 without touching entitlements or defense if he is elected. That means that non-defense discretionary spending—which includes FEMA aid—would have to be reduced by an eye-popping 40 percent.”
We are in the midst of a heated debate right now about how our nation should prioritize spending our money. There always seems to be money for war and weapons systems. Are we going to say that there’s not money for disaster preparedness and disaster relief? How do you want to see our tax dollars spent?
-Maureen Campbell, WAND/WiLL Program Manager