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Bad Katrina news gets worse for state

When I wrote yesterday’s posting, the worst it appeared the state would see was in the greater New Orleans area a lot of broken windows, a few flattened structures, and some flooding. It appeared the real destruction in the state would have occurred in the sparsely-populated area near the mouth of the Mississippi.

But that was before more levees broke in Orleans today, and now the place is filling up with water. Unfortunately, the city having been a crime haven, it has shown that again with noticeable looting. As I wrote of yesterday, there will be more political and policy consequences as a result of the further devastation.

At the local level, embattled politicos such as Mayor Ray Nagin and the Orleans Parish School Board will find a reprieve from their critics. Even U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson may find the heat reduced in a federal investigation that seems to have targeted him.

However, the ripples will be felt all throughout the state. As mentioned in yesterday’s posting, the federal government does not pick up all disaster-related costs; states are expected to pay some. Given the magnitude of the impending disaster, they will not be inconsiderable.

Further, the big bonus the state’s treasury expected from oil now will be curtailed. Prices are up relatively slightly, but the falloff in production even if only for days could cost the state millions of dollars in severance taxes.

This hit to the state budget mostly will be born by current revenues. The state’s emergency spending mechanism would provide only a pittance up against damage of this magnitude. Or, to put it another way, if there’s any special session of the Legislature to be called, it will be to deal with this, not a teachers’ pay raise. That money probably is gone.

I pray for my friends and former colleagues in the New Orleans area, including avid reader of this blog C.B. Forgotston and New Orelans Bulletin blogger John Vinturella and his wife Dr. Susan Howell that the trials they face as a result of this be minimal.

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