Hurricane Sandy aftermath: Cuomo to head to D.C. with $41.9B request

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media at Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. (Nov. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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As Congress scrambles to rein in spending and avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," Gov. Andrew Cuomo heads to Capitol Hill on Monday to meet congressional leaders and kick off a lobbying campaign seeking a $41.9 billion supplemental appropriation for recovery from superstorm Sandy.

Cuomo has a heavy schedule that calls for afternoon meetings with Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Daniel Inouye, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

The request has to go through the Republican-controlled House, and Cuomo, a Democrat, is putting a bipartisan cast on the appeal.

Before heading to the capital, he conferred last week with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Rep. Peter King of Long Island and other Republicans.

"John Boehner is the most vital man on Capitol Hill right now -- so John has to be on our side," King said.

To drive home the urgency of his message, Cuomo is comparing the economic impact of Sandy to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005 and prompted Congress to appropriate $146 billion for relief.

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"This supplemental appropriation will be critical for us," Cuomo said in a news briefing last Monday. "This state has suffered mightily, and we're going to need federal assistance to bring the state back."

Whereas Katrina's more than 1,800 deaths made it far deadlier than Sandy, which killed more than 200, Cuomo stressed the New York region's density.

Katrina caused 800,000 power outages, but Sandy caused 2 million, Cuomo said. The Gulf Coast storm damaged 18,000 businesses, but Sandy affected 265,000.

"The number of properties affected is much higher in Sandy than Katrina," he said.

Those are the kinds of comparisons Cuomo is expected to draw when he makes his case on Capitol Hill.

As a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in President Bill Clinton's administration, Cuomo knows his way around Washington and understands that the timing might not be ideal to be asking for additional funding.

"I understand the fiscal pressure that Washington is under," he said.

In a news conference Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said New York officials are aiming to get the appropriation approved by year's end.

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The $41.9 billion request, crafted with the help of consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, features $32.8 billion for storm repairs and $9.1 billion to help mitigate the impact of future storms. Almost half of the $32.8 billion request would go to New York City, which suffered extensive damage to its transit system.

In a midyear update to its financial plan, released last week, Albany cited the request for federal aid as a key point of uncertainty in assessing New York State's financial health.

Democrats and Republicans are jockeying over the shape of a budget required to avoid the automatic spending cuts mandated under the fiscal cliff put in place to deal with the country's mounting deficit.

With Yancey Roy and The Associated Press

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