Republicans Oppose Using Federal FEMA Funds for Snow Removal

04/12/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mike Elk Labor reporter at POLITICO; Member of the Washington Baltimore Newspaper Guild

This past week the Northeast has been ravaged by blizzards not seen in several decades. However, states facing increasing budget cuts have been unable to meet the challenges of keeping the roads clear and open.

States like New Jersey and Delaware, as this article by a local CBS station pointed out, have already gone through their entire budget for snow removal and are looking desperately for new money. The money is tough to come by because states face a $357 billion budget shortfall and local governments are facing an additional $80 billion in budget deficits. Since states by law are not allowed to go into debt, without federal aid they will have to cut essential services in order to balance their budgets

In Washington, D.C. most of the roads went unplowed for several days after snow stopped falling this weekend. The Metro was closed on key stops above ground for three days after snow stopped falling. Why? Because the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is running a $175 million budget deficit and didn't have the funds to clear the tracks above ground.

As a result, the federal government was closed Monday and Tuesday in D.C. even though snow had stopped falling the previous Saturday -- plenty of time to clear the snow if the local government had the money.

The nation's business stopped. Tax dollars wasted as hundreds of thousands of government workers sat idle because there wasn't enough money to remove snow. That's bad for workers, and the overall economy.

Conservatives, like always, don't care about fixing the problem. The recent job plan Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proposed doesn't include aid to the states because Republican leaders threatened to filibuster it.

In an attempt to clear the roads and keep the economy moving, President Obama has issued Federal FEMA orders declaring snow emergencies, giving federal FEMA funds to states so they can remove the snow.

The leading conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, has cast such efforts as a "Snow Bailout" criticizing it by saying:

"Given the federal budget deficits, FEMA can't afford to cover 75% of the costs of state snow removal either. It is high time for this federalization of routine events to come to a halt and for states to plan and budget for what are known events every year."

It's funny that the Heritage Foundation mentions its concern for federal budget deficits.

The Heritage Foundation certainly had no qualms advocating for the unnecessary War in Iraq without paying for it, but when it comes to removing snows from the road to help people get to work - no way. Remove snow from the roads - that's simply irresponsible!

It's time that conservatives in Congress wake up and behave like human beings. States desperately need federal aid in order to provide basic services that we all depend on like clearing the roads. Nobody benefits - rich or poor - alike when they have to risk their lives on dangerous roads.

Conservatives are living their fantasy of crippling the federal government's ability to provide basic services. Through budget cuts of necessary services, they are doing in the words of conservative thought leader Grover Norquist "to get [government] down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Or in this case a large blanket of snow.