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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: Multi-Million Dollar Weather Forecasts

by Michael Tasselmyer / /

Winter storm Hercules -- and with it, a so-called "polar vortex" -- swept across much of the Midwest and Northeast U.S. earlier this month, bringing frigid temperatures and a flurry of media attention. Other extreme weather phenomena, such as last year's tornado outbreak in Oklahoma and 2012's superstorm Sandy, are fresh in the public's mind, and this week's edition of The Taxpayer's Tab features a Congressional proposal to improve meteorologists' ability to forecast them.

Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) introduced H.R. 2413, the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013, in order to provide additional funding to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Specifically, the bill would provide $120 million to improve NOAA's reaction to "high impact weather events". The government currently spends about $80 million on weather forecasting initiatives, but some criticize the effectiveness of those programs. The legislation also funds and prioritizes additional research activities over the next few years.

Also in this week's edition:

  • Most Expensive: H.R. 3839, the Building and Repairing Infrastructure with Domestic Gains in Employment (BRIDGE) Act of 2013, would fund $50 billion worth of grants to create bridge repair and maintenance jobs across the country. It was introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY).
  • Least Expensive: Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) introduced S. 1376, the FHA Solvency Act, which would address capital shortage issues within the Federal Housing Administration's troubled mortgage insurance program. The bill's provisions would save an estimated $514 million according to CBO.
  • Most Friended: The National Flood Insurance Program is over $20 billion in debt, and to make up that shortage, will begin charging policyholders higher premiums in 2014. Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) introduced H.R. 3370, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, in order to delay those rate increases until FEMA can re-work the rate maps it currently uses to price its insurance premiums. Doing so would cost an estimated $900 million. The bill has 178 cosponsors in the House.

More detail on these bills and their costs is available in the Tab.