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A national catastrophe fund

The storm of outrage engendered by the failure by House Republicans to speed the $60 billion measure for superstorm Sandy relief through the legislative process, choosing instead to adjourn without taking action, was ferocious.

But it may also have served to reinvigorate the discussion on creating what is being called “a national catastrophe fund.”

Both Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rep. Peter King of New York — Republican stalwarts — were particularly vicious in their attacks on House Speaker John Boehner.

Disaster relief, both argued, shouldn’t be political.

They’re absolutely right.

And even though Rep. Boehner’s attention was regained by the uproar, and a vote was quickly scheduled on $9 million for the national flood insurance program and a further $51 billion later in the month, it’s still a change that should be made.

A national fund could stop this ridiculous posturing after the next disaster, and it’s something that Florida congressional representatives proposed back in 2007.

The fact is that natural disasters like hurricanes seem to be getting worse, and the cost of recovery has escalated in the 20 years since Hurricane Andrew struck in 2002 with an estimated $26.5 billion in damages. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was even more expensive costing some $100 billion or more.

And there are other kinds of disasters, such as wildfires, that hit states far from the coast.

The solution could be a national, federally managed fund to cover the costs of hurricanes, superstorms and other natural disasters. National Flood Insurance is such a program now, but is limited in its scope.

Florida’s 2007 bill passed the House, but died in the Senate.

Now Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat, has introduced a new version, the Taxpayer Protection Act, which would set up a national catastrophe fund, financed by homeowners’ policy premiums, to provide reinsurance for state disaster programs.

A national catastrophe fund that combines state resources with federal government support is the best way to cope with this permanent threat and possibly avoid another shameful episode of political gamesmanship.

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