Senator Presses For Flood Relief Aid In Budget

John J. Bonacic

April 08, 2008

State Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mt. Hope), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing, is pressing for millions of dollars in aid to help purchase flood stricken properties and take low and middle income families out of flood plains if they desire to move.

Bonacic is pushing for the aid as part of a housing budget bill, a bill which traditionally concentrates on helping New York City and other down-state areas. Bonacic has been pushing for the aid for the past eight weeks in budget meetings but according to the Senator "it all comes down to these last few hours."

As Chairman of the Housing Committee, Bonacic has substantial input shaping the Senate’s Housing priorities. The Senate, Governor, and Assembly are each expected to allocate their priorities out of a $100 million in housing capital needs. Of that, the Senate is expected to outline $33 million. Only the Senate, through Bonacic, has advocated for flood relief funds as part of the budget bill. Bonacic is pushing for $15 million of the funds to be prioritized by the Senate for flood relief. The remainder of the funds prioritized by the Senate would be allocated to build housing for senior citizens and main street re-development efforts.

In drafting the budget language, Bonacic had help from one of the area’s top Emergency Managers to design the program during what Bonacic said, "Are hopefully the final hours of budget negotiations." The Senator called in Sullivan County’s Dick Martinkovic this past Friday evening to help develop the State budget language. Martinkovic was again called on Sunday to help fine tune the draft budget language.

"The flooding of the past five years has been a recent phenomena. Getting people out of flood areas is key to stopping the recurring flood problems in our region. We spend millions on rebuilding, what we need is to prevent flooding. By buying out the most vulnerable properties we will not only save lives, but also be able to install wetlands and water detention facilities on these properties to protect whole neighborhoods. This is a great State and local partnership and one I appreciate being asked to lend my experience to," Martinkovic said.

According to Bonacic, on Monday evening the Senate, Assembly, and Governor signed off on his flood mitigation proposal, meaning unless the State's housing budget agreement blows up - something that the Senator cautioned could happen with any agreement in Albany, the funding has a good chance of being included in the final budget bill.

The eleven State budget bills started to be adopted at the end of March. So far, budget issues dealing with Transportation, Healthcare, Public Protection, Environmental Conservation, Agriculture, some of the Housing budget, and some of the Economic Development budget have been adopted. The major items which have yet to be finalized include Education, and capital expenses associated with Housing and Economic Development.

"Victims of the recent floods by and large are not people who have bought luxury homes on rivers. They are working familles who acquired their home long before the weather patterns have changed across our region. They continue to be flooded or threatened on an annual basis. Then, they along with other taxpayers in many instances, are left to deal with the clean up costs. We need to get these families out of flood prone areas and install wetlands and drainage basins in an effort to protect whole neighborhoods from flooding," Bonacic said.