Cassidy says he’ll make levee message louder in Washington

Working on Congressional measure to keep flood insurance rates affordable

Taking questions from a packed St. Charles Parish Council Chamber, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy told Parish President Larry Cochran that he would put greater emphasis on Capitol Hill on the parish’s need to complete a levee system.

Cassidy addressed a crowd of nearly 50 people last Thursday as part of his town meeting in St. Charles Parish.

Cochran singled out the West Bank levee to complete the hurricane protection system as the parish’s more important need at this time. He said East Bank levee is done, but help is needed to protect the West Bank. Voters supported a tax referendum to support its construction, but additional state and federal funding is needed.

“If we get a storm, we’ll be St. Bernard [parish] soon,” Cochran told Cassidy about flooding worries, particularly following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

The senator assured the crowd he would make that message louder to Congress.

Cassidy also cited declining funding since 1970 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has delayed or stalled projects. But he added, projects like the parish’s levee, could be done as quickly with the right kind of political pressure such as that applied on the presidential level for the New Orleans levee system after Hurricane Katrina deluged the city.

Coastal restoration and preserving the funding for it is also a significant priority on the congressional level as President Obama’s budget proposes to redirect the Gulf Of Mexico Energy and Security Act (GOMESA) funding away from coastal restoration, he said.

“We need more money to rebuild the coast,” said Cassidy, singling out GOMESA funds from coastal oil reserves as a key source for restoration, but added, “GOMESA money is under threat.”

The senator also said he’s supporting a reauthorization bill that would maintain flood insurance rates or keep them affordable, as well as is seeking alternatives to better control insurance rates. For example, the state of Mississippi coordinates wind and flood insurance coverage.

In light of recent flooding in Louisiana, a question posed by the crowd focused on whether Cassidy would support flood aid legislation without “pork” attached.

The senator said he has opposed that with past measures and intends to seek CDBG money for flood victims, although it’s a continual fight to stop amendments allocating funds for non-flood related projects.

Asked about Social Security losing money with deceased people and their spouses continuing to receive their benefits, Cassidy replied there is a survivor benefit with the program, but overall maintained the benefit was in trouble financially.

Payouts on Social Security along with Medicaid, Medicare and interest on the national debt are representing a growing draw on tax dollars, he said.

The problem is worsening with the nation’s changing demographics.

Cassidy said an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers a day are going on benefits at the same time the nation’s population of people replenishing these programs financially has fallen.

Asked to act toward eliminating the nation’s anchor baby mandate, Cassidy said he supports immigration but added, “We shouldn’t be gamed.”

He cited Cubans coming into the U.S., signing up for benefits and then returning to Cuba as example of what’s contributing to this problem.

Cassidy also said it was important to deal with the crime coming with illegal immigrants in the U.S., singling out drug and human trafficking as well as money laundering as key issues.

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