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Conservative Principles to Guide Christie’s Shore Rebuilding

Ronald Reagan’s Coastal Policy A Test For Gov. Christie

[Update below]

Governor Christie calls himself a conservative Republican.

He often emulates and harkens back to the words of President Reagan.

So, as a test of the Governor’s avowed conservative principles, I thought I’d lay out a federal legislative initiative championed by President Reagan that reflects conservative principles that could guide and be part of the Sandy Rebuild effort.

Conservative principles are relevant, because it sure looks like the Democratically controlled NJ Legislature is taking a pass and allowing the Governor and his rebuild Czar to control the game.

Conservative principles also could influence Congress, and suggest ways to impose strings and apply existing federal programs to the Sandy rebuild.

What I am suggesting is that conditions in the federal bailout package could require additional designations of NJ barrier islands and lands under the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (see map for currently designated NJ lands)

The real conservative principles I am talking about are:

  • reliance on markets; 
  • preference for small government solutions; 
  • avoid incurring taxpayer obligations; 
  • reduce wasteful federal spending; 
  • state government control, not top down federal mandates; 
  • personal responsibility

So, let’s hear how that would work, from the mouth of President Reagan:

A Free-Market Approach to Coastal Barrier Conservation

Recognizing the risk of developing coastal barriers and their value to local economies and natural resources, Congress adopted the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) in 1982. The Act is the essence of free-market natural resource conservation; it in no way regulates how people can develop their land, but transfers the full cost from Federal taxpayers to the individuals who choose to build. People can develop, but taxpayers won’t pay. Federal subsidies and other programs -especially the National Flood Insurance Program – are central to the economic viability of development in high-risk coastal areas. By limiting Federal subsidies and letting the market work, the Act seeks to conserve coastal habitat, keep people out of harm’s way, and reduce wasteful Federal spending to develop and rebuild again and again in places where storms often strike and chronic erosion is common.

President Ronald Reagan may have best articulated the Act’s approach when he said

This legislation will enhance both wise natural resource conservation and fiscal responsibility. It will save American taxpayers millions of dollars while, at the same time, taking a major step forward in the conservation of our magnificent coastal resources. (The Act) will not prohibit a property owner from building on his property, and it will not impose Federally mandated duties on State or local governments. Instead, it simply adopts the sensible approach that risk associated with new private development in these sensitive areas should be borne by the private sector, not underwritten by the American taxpayer.” (1982).

Hit the link and read the Full Report:


[Update: 1/11/13 – The latest Beltway story is that some in Congress are looking for budget offsets for the $60 billion Sandy bailout package, see this Politico story.

The progressive response to that demand would be to recommend amendments that create specific strings on the federal money that force states to develop a plan and take concrete actions to prevent future federal bailouts – carbon reductions and adaptation measures.

Those avoided costs have real economic value. There is a database on FEMA expenditures for storm damage. That data could be used to project cost savings and could be shown to be the projected equivalent of budget offsets. Obama’s new Treasury Secretary is a Harvard Man and rumored to be a budget quant.

FEMA can be asked to project their data on insurance claims and disaster assistance.
Savings would be demonstrated by compare a business as usual projection with assumptions about how states could reduce those future costs (e.g.
  • 25% less rebuild in vulnerable locations?
  • 25% increase in dune systems?
  • retrofit 25% of vulnerable infrastructure?

Analytically, a piece of cake. – end update]

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