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Thursday September 15, 2011 | 03:41 PM

As lawmakers tussle over how much and how to add to the sagging federal disaster relief fund in the wake of Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and other catastrophes this year, Sen. Olympia Snowe says one way to solve the problem in the long run is to bring more predictability to disaster relief funding.

The Maine Republican, along with GOP Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, today unveiled a proposal to require the president to submit an annual budget request for disaster relief using a 10-year average of previous allocations.

President Obama’s 2012 budget request for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 was $1.8 billion, while $6.8 billion already has been approved for individuals, families, communities and small businesses just for the 2011 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to Snowe’s office.

A current 10-year average, excluding an unusually light year in disaster funding in 2002 ($805 million) and the Katrina year of 2005 ($50 billion) would have led to the president asking for $5.5 billion in 2012, according to figures provided by Snowe’s office.

“There is simply no excuse for Washington continuing to fund disaster accounts on an emergency, ad hoc basis, rather than preparing for them in advance,” Snowe said in a statement.  “Our legislation would help alleviate the political haggling and brinksmanship that has become all too commonplace in Washington D.C., while ensuring that taxpayer supported disaster funds are properly budgeted and offset.

Snowe is the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Brown also is a member of that committee. 


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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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