Budget & Taxes
NY AND NJ COULD BE DENIED $1B-$2B IN SANDY RELIEF: In 2013, after a contentious debate, Congress approved about $60 billion in aid for the victims of Superstorm Sandy. Roughly $15 million of that went to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for distribution, and HUD has dispersed about $10.5 billion of the money so far, mainly to New York and New Jersey, which took the brunt of the 2012 storm.
But instead of continuing that approach and helping those two states complete infrastructure projects and repairs to thousands of homes, HUD is considering devoting $1 billion to $2 billion of the remaining Sandy aid to a first-ever national competition for disaster resiliency projects.
HUD officials maintain the Sandy relief bill specified that the money be used for disasters other than Sandy that occurred between 2011 and 2013. But U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) doesn't agree with that interpretation, contending the bill allows other regions to receive disaster relief but doesn't require that unless New York's and New Jersey's needs are met.
"When Congress passed the Sandy relief bill, that was the number one priority, and it remains so," he said. "Once those priorities are met, we will look at other proposals."
Federal officials, meanwhile, stressed that they haven't made any decision yet.
"Our number one priority is to continue working with state and local officials to address the remaining unmet needs of those affected by natural disasters. In regards to any disaster funding, no determination has been made on programming or allocations of remaining funds," said a HUD spokeswoman (WALL STREET JOURNAL).
'HOUSE OF CARDS' STAYING IN MD: The life-imitating-art drama surrounding the efforts by the producers of the Netflix series "House of Cards" to coax millions of dollars more in tax breaks out of the state of Maryland, where the show is filmed, appears to have come to an end for this year. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Beverly Hills, California-based Media Rights Capital announced last month that they have reached an agreement that will keep the show in Maryland for a third season.
The deal reportedly includes no new money in addition to the $11.5 million in incentives state lawmakers already agreed to give MRC, $3.5 million less than the company was seeking. The letter MRC sent to O'Malley and House Speaker Michael Busch (D) threatening to pull out of Maryland unless the state came up with the $15 million in incentives the company said it qualified for was like something out of an episode from "House of Cards." And the response of the state's House, which adopted an amendment to its version of the state budget authorizing the state to use eminent domain to seize the property of any production company that tried to leave the state after claiming substantial tax credits, was downright "Underwoodian," a reference to the show's main character, Frank Underwood, a ruthless politician played by Kevin Spacey.
But it was all smiles after last month's accord. O'Malley released a statement reading: "Spoiler alert: We're going to keep the 3,700 jobs and more than 100 million dollars of economic activity and investment that 'House of Cards' generates right here in Maryland." And MRC Co-CEO Asif Satchu thanked both the governor for his "tireless efforts to keep jobs in Maryland" and the state's lawmakers "for their continued advocacy and support."
Some, however, expressed concern about the future. One of them was David M. O'Ferrall, business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 487, hundreds of members of which have worked on "House of Cards."
"They want to do more seasons, so we still have that battle to win," he said (BALTIMORE SUN, STATE NET).
POLITICS IN BRIEF: Toyota Motor Corp. announced plans last month to move its U.S. headquarters from Torrance, CALIFORNIA to Plano, TEXAS and also shift engineering and finance operations from NEW YORK and KENTUCKY to the new facility. TEXAS Gov. Rick Perry's (R) office said the move would bring more than $300 million in jobs and capital investment to the state and that the Texas Enterprise Fund had offered Toyota $40 million (STAR-TELEGRAM [FORT WORTH]). • CONNECTICUT Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) said he is dropping his plan to give residents $55 tax rebates this year due to lagging income tax collections (HARTFORD COURANT, STATE NET). • Standard & Poor's has downgraded its outlook for NEW HAMPSHIRE's bonds from stable to negative in the wake of a court ruling declaring the state's Medicaid Enhancement Tax illegal. S&P's action could mean higher borrowing costs for the state (UNION LEADER [MANCHESTER]). • The OKLAHOMA Legislature passed and Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed a bill (SB 1246) cutting the state's top income tax bracket from 5.25 percent to 5 percent (OKLAHOMAN [OKLAHOMA CITY], STATE NET). • KANSAS officials projected last month that the state will take in nearly $178 million more in revenues through June 2015 than previously predicted (ASSOCIATED PRESS, REPUBLIC [COLUMBUS]). • Also in KANSAS, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signed a $129 million school funding bill approved by state lawmakers last month. Brownback said the measure satisfies a March ruling on school funding by the Kansas Supreme Court (KANSAS FIRST NEWS [TOPEKA], STATE NET).
- Compiled by KOREY CLARK
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