Oklahoma Lawmaker to Renew Fight for Disaster Funding

December 4, 2008

Oklahoma State Rep. Joe Dorman plans to renew his fight to ensure the state funds disaster recovery efforts this year and in the future, the Oklahoma House of Representatives reported.

Dorman said he will file legislation to require that money from the state’s Constitutional Reserve Fund (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) be used to provide matching funds for federal disaster relief appropriations from the federal government.

The bill will require that the emergency funding be directly debited from the Fund before Rainy Day dollars are used for any other purpose through a constitutional amendment to be voted on by the people in 2010.

“Too often, the state has failed to provide timely funding whenever a disaster strikes, delaying full recovery for families across the state,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “My bill will ensure that the Legislature need not be called into special session for assisting with disasters or partisan fighting delay required reparations.”

Currently, the federal government will fund 75 percent of disaster relief efforts while local towns or counties must provide 12.5 percent of the cost and the state pays the remaining 12.5 percent.

In recent years, the state has often been slow to provide its share of funding, Dorman noted.

“It took nearly six years for the state to pay its share of disaster relief for the ice storms of 2000,” Dorman noted. “That delay left the cities, counties, electric co-ops, and many other businesses and entities unpaid, creating a major hardship across the state as cost of materials grew more expensive. Individuals should not have to wait years to rebuild their lives. They should be our number one priority at the Legislature.”

Dorman carried similar legislation in 2007 that failed to be heard through lack of support in the conference committee system. Changes to the bill will allow for legislative leaders and the Governor to give unanimous approval for the transfer of funds to occur to prevent depletion of the Rainy Day Fund.

“I understand the concerns of leaders to take this funding out of the current appropriations system, but this is required federal matching funding mandated by FEMA for Oklahoma,” said Dorman. “Since we are mandated to pay this 12.5 percent cost, this is the surest way to take care of the costs associated with federally recognized disasters in our state.”

Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives

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