Louisiana's senators upped the ante on Hurricane Katrina's reconstruction costs Thursday, introducing legislation that would provide an estimated $250 billion in federal money to rebuild flood-ravaged New Orleans and repair hurricane damage elsewhere across the state.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said the comprehensive package of direct spending and tax incentives was intended as a roadmap for Senate and House committees as they develop reconstruction legislation for the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast.
"It's all vital," said Landrieu. "There's not anything in here that we would consider a wish list or pie in the sky. This is what we really believe is essential."
Congress already has provided $62 billion for recovery of the Gulf Coast from the hurricane and previous estimates have suggested the final total could top $200 billion. But the Landrieu-Vitter proposal, backed by the state's entire House delegation as well, would cost $250 billion on top of the $62 billion already appropriated. And it doesn't include reconstruction funding for Mississippi or Alabama, which also were hit hard by the storm.
"We recognize that it's a very high number," Landrieu said. "But I guess part of introducing this package, and doing it unified in our delegation, is to say this is an unprecedented natural disaster and national tragedy and it's going to take an unprecedented response."
Vitter said the proposal calls for the appointment of a strong federal manager to oversee and expedite the reconstruction effort in Louisiana. He said the manager would have no authority the federal government doesn't already have but would be able to work directly with state and local officials to cut through red tape and speed up the rebuilding.