Gov. Abbott says Mayor Turner is using cleanup situation to hold state 'hostage'
HOUSTON – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave an update on Hurricane Harvey response and receive a briefing with state legislators on recovery efforts.
Abbott, Commissioner John Sharp and others met at the FEMA Joint Field Office in Austin, then held a press conference at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Abbott said, “In times like these it’s important to have fiscal responsibility as opposed to financial panic. Listen, the Lt. Governor, the speaker, both agree with me. And that is that Texas will need to tap into the Rainy Day fund.
"They both agree with me that the appropriate time to do that will be during the next session. They along with the comptroller, all agree with me, and that is we have a full array of tools available to us, to be able to respond to all of our challenges. An easy example is, one of the most important issues right now, is debris removal.
"And because the city of Houston acted swiftly to begin that process, I was able to swiftly provide them a payment for it of almost $100 million. We have an accelerated reimbursement plan established, where we will reimburse the city for any expenses they have, along the lines of our agreement with FEMA.
"So that all I need are invoices so I can pay their invoices. I will be paying every city of Houston invoice they submit to us within approximately 10 days. Now that said, I did see the mayor’s letter where he’s asking for certain payments by the state of Texas to the city which are unprecedented, this never happened before in the state of Texas, and it raises a concern that the mayor seems to be using this as hostage to raise taxes, when in reality, the city of Houston is sitting on hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that he’s not tapping into.
"Those hundreds of millions of dollars are siloed in TIRZ programs. Either the mayor could use those hundreds of millions of dollars to pay those expenses that cost a fraction of that, or the state legislature, during the next session, can and will modify the TIRZ statutes to ensure that the reserves, by TIRZ, can be used, by cities, to respond to disasters. So he has all the money that he needs, including the money that I provided to him, including the money that taxpayers have provided to him. He just needs to tap into it.”
Here is a response from the Mayor's office:
"We cannot raid funds that the state has indicated cannot be raided – and which are largely for drainage projects to prevent future flooding anyway. Mayor Turner is asking the governor to do what other governors, such as Florida’s, are doing. It’s the Texas governor’s right to say no."
For more information about the individual assistance programs or to sign up for assistance, go to disasterassistance.gov.
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