US States Draw on Emergency Funds as Winter Maintains Grip

The prolonged spell on wintry weather across the US could have longer-term financial consequences for many states forced to draw on emergency funds to finance snow removal and repair potholes, reports
The Guardian
.

The daily reports that city and state authorities across the east and midwest US are having to find hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funds to meet the costs of dealing with one of the coldest winters of recent times. Spending cuts to other budgets and job losses could result

Among the examples provided, members of Michigan’s house of representatives are considering a US$100m emergency funding package for clearing and filling potholes on their roads. The plan was approved by the state senate after regional officials warned that overspends would leave them unable to carry out basic maintenance such as mowing and fixing guardrails later in the year.

The city of Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy last July, endured its snowiest January on record this year, while officials from nearby Wayne County report that their snow-clearing costs are up by 200% on last year.

To the midwest, Ohio’s transportation department had already overshot its US$65m annual budget for clearing roads by US$20.6m three weeks ago, says
The Guardian
. Around US$13.1m had been spent on overtime pay for crew members operating the state’s 1,627 ploughs – more than twice the total winter spend on overtime in 2011-12.

The city of Chicago also quickly exceeded its budget for removing snow, spending US$28m or more than 36% over budget for the year. Molly Poppe, a city spokeswoman, said a US$6m fuel tax surplus would be used to bridge the gap.

Officials from the state of Illinois told The Fiscal Times last month that they had spent more than US$100m on clearing snow this winter, triple the $33.9m spent at the same point last year.

Further east, New Jersey has spent a total of US$106m on snow removal to date, an increase of almost 70% on last year’s total of US$62.5m.

Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, last month approved US$35m in additional funding for tackling snow across the five boroughs this winter. The extra cash amounts to more than 60% of the city’s regular US$57.3m budget, which has quickly been exhausted.

In New England, Massachusetts has spent more than US$100m on snowstorms this season, according to the Associated Press, almost two and a half times the state’s $43m budget for the fiscal year. New Hampshire’s transportation department had to seek approval for a US$2.25m raid on the state highway fund, which comprises fuel tax revenue and vehicle registration charges, to supplement its regular US$42m winter budget.

“We do anticipate having to go back for more,” said William Boynton, a spokesman for the New Hampshire state department of transportation. He estimated that officials had spent about 88% of their budget two-thirds of the way through winter. “We have completely exhausted our overtime budget. It’s probably going to be the most expensive winter we have ever had.”

Further south, officials in North Carolina announced a month ago that they had already exceeded their US$30m yearly allowance. In Virginia, the state Department of Transportation has already exceeded its US$10m snow removal budget by US$3.4m, according to a regional news station.

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