ATLANTA - Florida must raise at least $150 million in new taxes or fees to obtain all of the disaster relief aid package Congress passed last week, Gov. Lawton Chiles told state lawmakers in a letter sent Monday.
The letter also says the $150 million may be only the beginning of Hurricane Andrew's financial burden for Florida.
"In order to take full advantage of the available federal aid, the state of Florida must provide matching money for both public and individual assistance programs," he wrote. "At this stage our best estimate is that we will need to appropriate at least $150 million for these purposes."
At a press conference Monday, Gov. Chiles explained that Florida is required to put up funds equal to 25% of the federal grants to individuals and families to qualify for a matching contribution.
In addition, Florida must pay the first $33 million of $743.2 million in grants to restore damaged state and local facilities. On orders from President Bush, most other areas of federal assistance including debris removal, are covered at a 100% reimbursement level.
"We also anticipate other financial, obligations." Gov. Chiles continued in his letter, "but they are not fixed at this time. The state Office of Planning and Budgeting is currently reviewing these needs and we will make a recommendation to the Legislature at the appropriate time."
At the press conference, Gov. Chiles declined to specify what kind of disaster relief appropriation he would ask from legislators to cover the $150 million needed.
Other than using fees or taxes, the governor could ask that funds be appropriated from the state's reserve fund, which currently totals about $200 million, state officials say. If the reserve is used, it must be replenished by revenue appropriations.
The governor also declined to say whether the request would be made when lawmakers return to Tallahassee in November for an organizational session or when the regular 1993 session begins in February.
The governor did offer a "ballpark number" of $1.3 billion as a preliminary estimate of the hurricane's eventual cost to the state.
George Leung, managing director of state ratings at Moody's Investors Service, said Moody's is closely monitoring Florida's out-of-pocket expenses for Hurricane Andrew, which struck on Aug. 24. "We expect to have a full discussion of these matters soon with state official," he said.
Last Friday Congress approved an $11.1 billion disaster relief package to cover damage from Hurricane Andrew in Florida and Louisiana, Typhoon Omar in Guam, and Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii that included $6.3 billion in grants and $4.8 billion in loans. Florida expects to receive about $9 billion of the total.
In his Monday letter, Gov. Chiles praised Congress for passing a package that "should substantially meet the minimum requirements we outlined when we began our lobbying efforts in Washington." He also said the $92 million ear-marked for Homestead Air Force Base "ensures that the base will continue to play a vital role in Florida's aviation future, whether military civilian, or a combination of the two."
Last Friday, the governor's office released the first detailed assessment of revenue losses to state and local governments in Florida resulting from Hurricane Andrew.
According to the assessment, titled Highlights: Hurricane Relief Package," the state will lose between $21.5 million and $38.5 million in revenues because of reductions in gross receipts, tax, lottery revenues, tolls, and state park fees."
Local governments, the document says, will suffer revenue losses of between $116.1 million and $178.8 million from reduced property and utility taxes. In addition, the Dade County School Board will lose between $39.8 million and $79.8 million in revenue because of reductions in property taxes.