Texas was hit hard in 2008 by hurricanes Dolly and Ike. The federal government pitched in $3.1 Billion Dollars in disaster relief to help people hit hardest. The relief funding was intended to create the largest public works program in Lone Star history-- a project that was supposed to create jobs and fix what nature broke.
According to an article this morning in the Austin American-Statesman Gov. Rick Perry took the first $45 million and gave it to his campaign donors to manage the public works project.
The public works project was supposed to create jobs for Texas workers rebuilding homes, roads and bridges destroyed in the hurricanes. The public investment didn't do much of that at all.
Instead of feathering the bank accounts of Perry's donors, you probably want to know where the money was supposed to go.
In Houston, the first new homes to replace those destroyed by Hurricane Ike were only recently completed. In Galveston, where 75 percent of the island's structures were damaged in the 2008 storm, the initial $259 million phase of rebuilding has been plagued with local delays, dissent and complaints about padded costs and inadequate inspections of rebuilt homes.
The Statesman reports:
Congress appropriated $3.1 billion to help Texans recover from the hurricanes that struck the Gulf coast in 2008. Fifty-five percent of the money ($1.7 billion) is for housing, and 45 percent ($1.4 billion) for nonhousing projects — everything from emergency generators to new water and sewage treatment facilities. Of the total $3.1 billion, $1.3 billion was released in the first round of funding.
After downsizing state government offices, the Rick Perry administration awarded the no-bid contract to the Kansas City, Missouri-based firm HNTB to manage the public works projects.
HTNB contributed heavily to Perry's campaigns for governor and to "the Republican Governors Association, which Perry has twice chaired. According to campaignmoney.com, HNTB and its executives have given more than $500,000 to the association, which has sent $4 million to Perry's political campaigns."
The company's billings threaten to exhaust the amount budgeted for administrative and planning costs, while only 20 percent of the first round of money released to Texas to aid disaster recovery grants has been spent three years after the storms. Based on the state's original timeline, at least half those projects should have been completed by now, federal officials say.
(HTNB) was the principal consultant for Perry's first — and largest — pet project as governor, the proposed $184 billion Trans-Texas Corridor, which succumbed to widespread public opposition in 2010. Since 2008, the Texas Department of Transportation has paid HNTB $109 million for engineering consulting services, according to records with the state comptroller. Ray Sullivan, communications director for Perry's presidential campaign, has been a lobbyist for HNTB.
In 2010, the Obama administration began looking closely at overhead expenses for community development block grants nationwide and found that Texas was rapidly spending down the money budgeted for administrative and planning costs for disaster-related infrastructure grants. Federal guidelines set a limit on such expenditures.
From the Statesman graphic:
In what's been called the largest public works project in Texas history, only 20% of the first round of federal disaster funds allocated for recovery from Hurricanes Dolly and Ike has been disbursed into the affected comunities, while 92% of the money for grant overhead has been spent. Federal officials say the lopsided spending rates will likely result in a shortfall of funds to administer the next round of infrastructure projects.
Of nearly $54 million budgeted for administration, the Perry gang has spent nearly $49 million.
Of $608 million budgeted for water, sewage, drainage and road facilities, the Perry administration has spent only $121 million according to the Texas General Land Office quoted by the American Statesman in their graphic.
Read all about in the Austin American-Statesman. This is good investigative reporting in mainstream media.