Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dorman Calls for Disaster Funding Reform

Oklahoma House of Representatives
Media Division
January 28, 2009

Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Capitol: (405) 557-7305

Dorman Calls for Disaster Funding Reform

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Joe Dorman today urged legislators to allow the people of Oklahoma the opportunity to vote to reform state law to ensure disaster funding is readily available following future ice storms and other disasters.
House Joint Resolution 1018, by Dorman, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution 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. The proposed amendment, which would be sent to the voters for approval at the next general election, requires that the emergency funding be provided before Rainy Day Fund money is used for any other purpose.
“For too long, disaster funding has been at the bottom of the priority list at the Legislature when it should be at the top,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “This legislation will ensure that families, communities and counties are not left waiting months or even years for the state to act after a natural disaster.”
Currently, in most cases, the federal government will fund 75 percent of the disaster relief leaving the local entity with 12.5 percent and the state with 12.5 percent.
However, the state has often been slow to provide its 12.5 percent share, preventing the disbursement of emergency funding. Dorman noted the state did not pay its share of disaster funding for the 2000 ice storms until 2006.
“That delay left the cities, counties, electric co-ops, and many other businesses and entities unpaid and in need of reimbursement,” said Dorman. “This measure will make sure that this will never happen again.”
He said the resolution will also ensure that lawmakers do not have to divert money from other programs – such as school or road funding – during an economic downturn to pay for disaster reimbursement.
“The Rainy Day Fund was designed to handle unexpected emergencies and ‘act of God’ disasters clearly meet that definition,” Dorman said. “This is a prudent use of the state’s savings account that will not harm other important government functions.”
Dorman also noted there will be provisions in place to allow legislative leaders and the governor the opportunity to block this process should the Rainy Day Fund be depleted or the Legislature in session and the funds appropriated through the normal legislative process. Dorman has met with municipal officials, county officers and emergency management leaders from around Oklahoma, all who support this change to the Oklahoma Constitution.
The Legislature will convene on Feb. 2.


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