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Count conservative activist Steve Lonegan among those not pleased with President Obama requesting $60 billion in aid for New Jersey, New York and other states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
That money’s coming from somewhere – taxpayers – and the bill appropriating the money reportedly has millions in pork-barrel projects attached to it, according to Lonegan, state director for the New Jersey chapter of Americans For Prosperity.
Lonegan issued a news release on the matter Tuesday, calling the request to Congress "ridiculous," and noting that "the price tag amounted to nearly $4,200 for every man, woman and child in the state."
We asked Lonegan spokesman Mike Proto whether Lonegan meant the $4,200 as a cost or grant for each New Jerseyan. "Neither," he said. "It’s just simply doing the math of what it (the aid package) would equate to." Lonegan, however, used the words "price tag" in his statement, which implies cost or debt. And in our calculations, the numbers don’t add up.
Let’s first review the facts that led to Obama’s request.
Hurricane Sandy walloped the state on Oct. 29, shredding houses along the Shore and inland. Millions lost power for extended periods and 40 people from 13 counties in New Jersey died as a result of the storm.
Obama came to New Jersey and toured the damage with Gov. Chris Christie. Obama also later toured New York. The damages amount for New Jersey has fluctuated, but Christie’s latest estimate is approximately $37 billion.
The total damages estimate for all three states is $82 billion, according to estimates from Christie, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Proto said Lonegan’s calculation is based on the New Jersey damage estimate and U.S. Census Bureau population data for 2011.
Dividing $37 billion by the state’s population of 8,821,155 equals $4,194, which is correct, when looking at Lonegan’s estimate of "about $4,200" per person.
But there’s a couple of problems.
First, Lonegan didn’t use $37 billion in his news release, he used $60 billion - four times. That makes the per-person amount $6,801.
Second, any federal aid package is going to be paid by the entire country, not just New Jerseyans. The current U.S. population is 314,981,492. That means a $60 billion aid package would cost every U.S. man, woman and child $190.48. A $37 billion aid package would cost each person $117.46.
Lonegan favors no aid for the damages caused by Sandy.
"There is a moral question here," Lonegan said in an e-mail. "Should a group of people who have had their homes damaged by a hurricane have more political clout than a single person who has had their home destroyed by a tragedy?"
Aid of any amount would further increase debt, Lonegan added.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) spoke Monday on the Senate floor about the need for funding to help New Jersey rebuild, and acknowledged cost concerns.
"Unfortunately, there are those voices who are saying the cost to help families rebuild and recover is too much; that it should be reduced; that in this emergency, unlike many other similar emergencies in the past, we should do something smaller and wait to do the rest later," Menendez said. "Those who make such arguments could not be, respectfully, more wrong."
Lonegan said in a news release that the "price tag" for $60 billion in aid requested by Obama "amounted to nearly $4,200 for every man, woman and child in the state." Price tag implies cost.
That calculation is only correct if it’s based on New Jersey’s damages of $37 billion, an amount Lonegan didn’t mention in his news release.
A $60 billion aid package would amount to $6,801 for every New Jerseyan.
Further, the nation would share in the cost of an aid package, not just those in the Garden State, bringing the per-person cost to less than $200.
Since there is an element of truth to Lonegan’s claim, we rate this statement Mostly False.
To comment on this story, go to NJ.com.
Americans for Prosperity news release, "Americans for Prosperity to Key Vote Pork-Laden $60.4B Sandy Relief Aid Bill," Dec. 18, 2012, accessed Dec. 18, 19 and 21, 2012
Phone and e-mail interviews with Mike Proto, Americans For Prosperity communications director, Dec. 19 and 21, 2012
NJ.com, White House to request $60B in Sandy recovery aid for N.J., N.Y., Dec. 7, 2012, accessed Dec. 19, 2012
NJ.com, Hurricane Sandy disaster aid for N.J. expected to flow in slowly, Dec. 12, 2012, accessed Dec. 19, 2012
The Associated Press, Senate debates $60.4 billion Sandy aid package, Dec. 17, 2012, accessed Dec. 19, 2012
U.S. Census Bureau website, accessed Dec. 19 and 21, 2012
E-mail interview with Steve Lonegan, Dec. 20, 2012
National Taxpayers Union website, accessed Dec. 20, 2012
E-mail interview with Douglas Kellogg, National Taxpayers Union communications manager, Dec. 20, 2012
Sen. Robert Menendez video, "Menendez: Congress Must Stand With New Jersey & Pass Full Relief Sandy Package," Dec. 17, 2012, accessed Dec. 21, 2012
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