Texas governor gives Houston $50M for cleanup
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday gave $50 million in state funds to the city of Houston for Hurricane Harvey cleanup following criticism over his assertions that the Democratic mayor already had “all the money he needs.”
Abbott, a Republican whose political career began in Houston, handed a check to Mayor Sylvester Turner with hopes of easing tensions between them over the storm that left Houston underwater more than a month ago and could result in the costliest disaster cleanup in U.S. history.
The money amounted to something of a reversal for Abbott, who just days earlier accused Turner of sitting on hundreds of millions of local dollars and holding the state “hostage” by pushing a tax hike to pay for Harvey’s mounting expenses.
Houston officials said Abbott misunderstood city finances, and on Thursday, the Houston Chronicle blistered Abbott in an editorial for refusing to start spending from Texas’ $10 billion emergency savings fund. Wrote the editorial board: “Here’s what he’s essentially saying to Houston: DROP DEAD.”
Sitting beside Turner at a news conference in Houston on Friday, Abbott said they were on the same team.
“Mayor, I don’t come emptyhanded today,” said Abbott, who said he is not tapping the state’s rainy day fund but is instead using other sources in the state budget to provide the money.
Turner said with the money he will stop pushing for a one-time Houston property tax increase of 3.6 percent.
“We are most effective and most impactful when we are working together,” Turner said. “Quite naturally the only thing people want from us is to work together.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency dollars will pay for most of Harvey’s cleanup. President Donald Trump earlier this month signed a $15.3 billion Harvey relief package and congressional leaders have said they will pursue more recovery spending.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had said Houston’s mayor already had “all the money he needs.”