Gov. Abbott will return to Washington to ask for needed Harvey funding

FILE - A truck in a flooded Houston neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey. (KXAN File photo)
FILE - A truck in a flooded Houston neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey. (KXAN File photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he will return to Washington D.C. on Nov. 13 as the state continues to seek funding from the White House and Congress for a rebuilding package.

Abbott, on a press conference call with reporters Wednesday, discussed the meetings he had with leaders in the nation’s capital Tuesday over a $61 billion Texas Gulf Coast rebuilding package. He brought a 300-page document outlining the different programs that need funding to Director of Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney and congressional leaders.

“We outlined the magnitude of the devastation to Texas, which was really three disasters as opposed to one,” he said. “First, it was the hurricane event that crushed Rockport and Port Aransas in that region in the state of Texas. Second, there was the record flooding that took place in Houston and third, there was record flooding that took place in the Jefferson County area including Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur.”

Abbott told reporters the state is requesting funding for roads, public assistance buildings such as schools and courthouses and hopes it can help with flood proofing and rebuilding in a way to reduce costs going forward. He said his team remains on Capitol Hill working with members of Congress to understand this funding request and Mulvaney told him he would be looking over the document in preparation to submit a supplemental budget request in two weeks.

“We made clear this is not a closed book,” Abbott said during the call. “This is a work in progress. If there are any other projects that need to be funded and meet the qualifications we believe are necessary to be met in order to receive funding, we are very open to including those projects in a request.”

NAFTA discussions

Abbott said he also met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss Texas’ position on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“While everyone understands the need to update now a multi-decade old NAFTA agreement, there’s also a need to understand the necessity, the importance of having an agreement that will continue the type of trade benefits that Texas has been able to achieve,” he said.

In August, President Donald Trump said during a visit to Arizona he thought the U.S. would “end up probably terminating” NAFTA with Canada and Mexico “at some point.”

Abbott told reporters Texas’ trade relationship with Mexico keeps growing because the state continues to ship oil and gas there and there are deals being worked on “that could expand that even further.” He cited the benefits of NAFTA for Texas jobs and the state’s overall economy. Abbott also met with Chief of Staff John Kelly to talk about where the state stands on NAFTA.

“It’s important that we improve what needs to be improved, but we retain what’s been beneficial,” Abbott said.

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