The House Select Committee on Hurricane Ike has finished its final meeting.
A series of six meetings on the recovery from Hurricane Ike has concluded in Galveston. The Texas House Select Committee on Hurricane Ike was seeking input from leaders across southeast Texas on how the state handled the storm and where it can improve.
At Wednesday's meeting in Galveston, city leaders pleaded with the state for funding to aid in the rebuilding process. Galveston has already seen a ten percent drop in revenue since the beginning of this fiscal year on October 1st. The city expects a 30 percent drop in the next fiscal year.
"All of our employees will take a three percent salary cut, including myself," says City Manager Steve LeBlanc. "Layoffs are imminent. We not only have a declining revenue stream, we have to fund all of the improvements to the damaged infrastructure and then seek reimbursement from FEMA."
LeBlanc has called on the legislature to let Galveston keep all of its revenue from sales tax instead of returning a portion to the state. He says Texas granted the same exemption following the storm of 1900.
"There was no question in anybody's mind in 1900 that Galveston was worth saving," says Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas. "We had our economic engines working for us, and they are working now."
Thomas told the committee that the Port of Galveston is working to bring back industry, but tourism is struggling. She says many businesses along the Strand remain closed.
"Help us sustain our industries," she asked of the committee. "Is Galveston worth saving? Yes."
Thomas' testimony drew cheers from members of the committee.
"I know we're not in church, but I'll say 'amen' to that," says Representative Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball).
LeBlanc and Thomas have also called for the state to offer Galveston funds to pay for repairs so the city can focus its revenue on paying city employees. LeBlanc says ten percent of city workers have left the island, saying they do not see a future in Galveston. He says up to 40 percent of the island's total population has yet to return.
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