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Owens weighs in on federal disaster aid -- Doheny, less so


Democratic Rep. Bill Owens said that he's "generally supportive" of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's request that the federal government pay for 100 percent of the cost to clean up after Superstorm Sandy, and that Congress should allocate disaster funds first and cut the budget to match later.
Republican Matt Doheny, his opponent on Tuesday, didn't answer my questions about it.
Storm cleanup could cost $6 billion, according to Mr. Cuomo. Most of the damage occurred downstate. The north country was spared. But we have had our share of disasters here, too — and federal help — after severe ice storms in the 1990s.
Asked whether the federal government should provide 100 percent federal reimbursement of local costs, Mr. Owens said: "I think we need to look at that carefully. In general I would support (that)."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is adequately funded to deal with the cleanup costs, Mr. Owens said. But if FEMA runs out of money, what then? Should the federal government find cuts elsewhere in the budget to make up for every dollar that goes to disaster relief?
"I firmly supported the idea that we needed to do this, because our constituents needed it, and to deal with that question (of budget cuts) afterwards. After people's needs have been met," Mr. Owens said.
That question surfaced in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Our part of the north country escaped the brunt of that storm.
In a phone interview, I attempted to ask Mr. Doheny the same questions yesterday, but he said that he didn't have time to answer them.
A staffer sent back the following quote from Mr. Doheny, which does not address the question of the federal share of the cleanup costs or the question of whether you have to cut first before you provide federal funds.

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Hurricane Sandy. While the damage is still being assessed, our first priority should be ensuring the immediate safety of all the victims, as well as getting key public services up and running.
"I applaud Governor Cuomo, Chris Christie and Mayor Bloomberg for their capable leadership during this difficult time. If elected, I will work with them in Congress to ensure New Yorkers affected by this terrible tragedy are able to receive the vital assistance they need, and that the state receives the funds necessary to rebuild infrastructure and provide for public safety."

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