Malloy seeks $3.2 billion to protect state from future storms

Washington — Gov. Dannel Malloy Monday asked the Obama administration for $3.2 billion to protect Connecticut from another super storm like Sandy by burying electric transmission lines and building new seawalls.

Malloy also put the total estimated cost of Sandy’s damage to Connecticut at $660 million. That figure includes both insured and uninsured losses and the destruction of both private and public property, he said.

Malloy also cautioned that the estimate is likely to rise as damage assessments continue.

The governor said he planned to ask the U.S. Office of Management and Budget Monday for $3.2 billion for mitigation efforts. Those include a series of Army Corps of Engineer flood protection projects, including the construction of new seawalls.

Dan DeSimone, the director of Connecticut’s Washington office, said the money would also be used to improve and relocate sewage treatment plants along the coast, improve and fortify vulnerable state and municipal airports and upgrade communication systems so they are storm-proof.

But DeSimone said the bulk of the $3.2 billion would be focused on improvements to Connecticut’s electric transmission system, “replacing old infrastructure, burying lines in critical or high density areas (and) establishing micro-grids in high density areas to preserve vital functions.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had already submitted their emergency requests to the federal government, totalling about $79 billion for both states.

Cuomo was also in Washington Monday pressing for money for his state. The New York governor met with congressional appropriators and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, about his request for $42 billion.

But it’s not clear what will become of the bids for money from the governors of Sandy-slammed states.

The Office of Management and Budget must first review the requests, then send a final determination to Congress.

Congressional appropriators expect OMB to send them a formal request for Sandy funds this week.

But Jennifer Hing, press secretary for the House Appropriations Committee, said no one on Capitol Hill knows what the total figure will be. Whatever it is, it’s likely to be cut back by the GOP-controlled House Appropriations panel.

“Once we get the request the committee will give it a good scrub and make a determination on what is needed,” Hing said.

She pointed out that Congress’ initial appropriation for Hurricane Katrina, the most expensive storm on record, was $60 billion, substantially less than the governors are asking for in Sandy aid.

Then there’s the question of how fast Malloy and the other governors will receive Sandy funds.

Congress is in a lame duck session that’s expected to end before Christmas, and it has much to do during this brief period. That includes trying to find a way to avoid a looming “fiscal cliff,” when a series of tax cuts expire at the end of the year and deep, automatic spending cuts are implemented. Economists and others have said that going over the so-called cliff could plunge the nation back into a recession.

Sandy funds could be part of negotiations over the fiscal cliff, or considered in separate legislation.

The debate over Sandy money could also be bumped to the new Congress next year.

“But all the lawmakers want this done sooner rather than later,” said Rob Blumenthal, press secretary for the Senate Appropriations Committee.