In a Miami press conference to mark the beginning of hurricane season, Gov. Rick Scott and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly sidestepped questions about President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut millions from hurricane research and disaster relief.
“I know NOAA, that our National Weather Service have been really good partners,” Scott said referring to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that oversees hurricane research and forecasts. “I was telling Secretary Kelly that FEMA has been a really good partner.”
But what’s his stance on the widely reported 22 percent cuts that would shrink the budget of the agency that runs the National Hurricane Center from $514 million to $400 million?
“I have not seen the detail of that,” Scott said.
The National Hurricane Center hosted the annual press briefing to mark the beginning of the six-month hurricane season. This year, forecasters expect a busier than normal season, with 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and between two and four major storms with winds topping 111 mph. Last year, Florida got slammed by one hurricane and sideswiped by a second, that caused about $10.5 billion in damage in the U.S.
The briefings typically focus on steps the public should take to prepare. But this year, reporters wanted to know about uncertainty, both in hurricane forecasting and efforts to deal with climate change already taking a toll on South Florida with increased flooding and a local rapid rise in sea level since 2006.
When asked about Trump’s expected decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord that maps out global measures to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change, Scott said the president never asked for his opinion. And he never offered one. When asked if he had one, Scott, who has long dodged questions about climate change in a state considered ground zero for impacts, responded:
“What I’ve done in the state is to try to solve things. So we’ve put a lot of money into beach renourishment and this year I’ve proposed $50 million-plus.”
Scott said he also wants to fight flooding by proposing $200 million to speed up the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ repair of aging dikes around Lake Okeechobee. Legislators have opposed it since the federal government typically handles dike and dam maintenance.
“We gotta keep focused on the things we can solve and that’s what I’ve been doing,” Scott said.
Kelly likewise sidestepped questions about how hurricane-prone Florida would deal in the aftermath of a storm if Trump’s proposed cuts, which still face congressional scrutiny, are made to emergency relief. Trump has proposed slashing $667 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which Kelly oversees, and instead increase border security to $2.6 billion, which includes money for a border wall plus $314 million for more border patrol agents.
“We will make do,” Kelly said.