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Inasmuch as adequate flood control requires projects beyond our State borders, it is vital that we work in harmony and close cooperation with neighboring States and the Federal Government. This we are doing and will continue to do in the days ahead.
Flood control is a matter that will require the full energies of Connecticut's congressional delegation. All of us know they will do their best for our people.
It would be well to bear in mind that we are not making any inordinate demands on the Federal Treasury. Connecticut has paid its full share of taxes. For every thousand dollars we have contributed in Federal taxes during the past 25 years, we have received back $49.92—or about 40 percent as much as the rest of the country. Only one other State, Delaware, has had a smaller return. The maximum figure for any State, by comparison, is the $534.46 received by Mississippi.
Over the years, we have more than carried our share of national taxes and helped less fortunate States. Now we need large amounts of Federal funds to protect our homes, our people, and our economic life. There should be no question about giving us this help.
A part of any flood-control program, especially as it concerns high tides and the flooding of shore areas, is the problem of shore erosion. As a result of action hy this legislature, we are embarked on a $2 million shore-erosion program. Much of this work will be carried out before next summer.
The insuring of proper inspection of dams and river channels is another major flood control responsibility facing the legislature.
There are, in Connecticut, 3,000 and 8,000 miles of rivers and streams. 250 of the dams are of such a size that they should be inspected and studied to make sure they do not present a hazard to life and property. Most of the dams were designed and built before there were any restrictions on such construction.
Until we know these dams are safe, they represent a threat to every community through which their streams flow.
In view of the seriousness of the situation, the legislature should establish a policy for such matters as construction in river channels, encroachment on the <hannels, and the location of new dams.
There is no authority to recommend to the towns that lakes and reservoirs be maintained at specified levels. The decision on opening or closing floodgates varies from community to community.
It is the same way with the granting of permission to build on the banks of streams. Connecticut towns have the statutory authority to restrict encroachment on the channels, but here is no uniform policy. It would be advisable to bave the State food control and water policy commission empowered to make recommendations on these matters. Town officials cannot be expected to possess this technical knowledge.
Connecticut also must hammer on the doors of Congress and make its voice heard in the plea for disaster insurance.
The Red Cross and its sister relief agencies have done an outstanding job here. The State also is assuming a heavy burden. But there are many individuals and business firms that do not qualify for any of this help. They need disaster insurance.
Because of the risks involved, the rates of private insurance companies would be prohibitive. The Federal Government, therefore, must take the lead in providing such protection.
Connecticut does have one form of insurance that protects against disaster. The unemployment compensation fund protects against the disaster of unemployment. To make the fund fully effective in this emergency, however, the legislature should modify the provisions of the Unemployment Compensation Act.
By waiving the mandatory 1-week waiting period, we will make available $1 million from this insurance fund to 33,000 working men and women who were unemployed during the flood periods. These people have suffered hardships. Many of them are struggling to rebuild and refurnish their homes and reclothe their families. They need every dollar they can get.
Hard-hit industrialists, fighting to keep their plants in operation and their workers employed, also can be helped by modifying the act. The Legislature should amend the act so that unemployment resulting from the floods will not affect an employer's merit rating.
As you know, the revenue for the fund is derived from a payroll tax. The employer with a consistent employment record is given a good merit rating and pays a lower rate than the employer with a poor employment record. Layoffs caused by the floods will push up the merit ratings of many firms damaged by the floods and may total as much as $2 million.
This is an unjust tax boost. Through no fault of their own, these companies, which have suffered serious losses, are being penalized even further. To make the whole thing more inconsistent, the increase in the rates of the flood-hit industries would automatically decrease the rates of firms outside the flood areas. Thus we have the incongruous spectacle of flooded industries being called upon to assume a heavier burden than the factories that were spared flood damage.
Waiving the 1-week waiting period, and modifying the act so the floods won't affect an employer's merit rating, will in no sense deplete the unemployment compensation fund. The balance of this fund as of November 1, 1955, was $230,972,000.
It is also important that the legislature act to assure flood victims of adequate housing. Thousands of homes have been damaged and destroyed. Rental housing is in general short supply.
I wholeheartedly subscribe to the housing recommendations of the flood recorery committee as to temporary housing for occupation by flood victims, repair of flood damage to State moderate rental housing, extension of the State's low interest rate home mortgage loan program to assist those whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the floods, and expansion of the State's moderate rental housing for flood victims. By also extending rent controls into 1957, we will have done much to help those who need an adequate roof over their head.
Now we must face the decision on how to raise the money needed to pay for the flood relief program. We need $31,373,000.
I have no hesitaney to take the leadership and responsibility in this matter. I make a recommendation that I consider fair and equitable to all.
The people of Connecticut are aware of the tremendous devastation that has been wrought by the floods. They realize it would be of the utmost cruelty to expect the bent shoulders of the victims who have suffered these grievous blows to bear the brunt of the reconstruction cost. This cost should be shared by all our people. It must be spread over the entire tax structure. It must be distributed among all groups of the ('onnecticut economy and society.
For this emergency purpose, to exempt any one group would be an insult to them; should they ask for an exemption would be to their shame.
The fairest way to achieve this is hy a 1-cent increase in the cigarette tax and an across-the-board surtax of 10 percent on all other present taxes except the gasoline tax. The taxes would remain for 2 years. This is a middle-of-the-road approach. It is much more equitable than going to the extremes of increasing the sales tax by 1 cent, or introducing a State income tax. An across-the-board increase, however, would be shared proportionately by the big corporation as well as the average working man.
Let me cite a couple of examples on how this tax would work. A corporation paying $100.000 a year would, with the flood-tax increase, pay $110.000. A housewife buying a $3 item in a department store now pays a 9-cent sales tax. Under the across-the-board proposal, which would increase the sales tax by only threetenths of 1 percent, she would pay an additional 1-cent flood tax-or a total sales tax of 10 cents on the $3 item.
The State would realize from this increase over a 2-year period a total of $30.651.870, which in approximate figures would meet the flood costs.
In closing. let me say: "Don't underestimate the courage and intelligence and responsibility of the people of Connecticut.”
I've seen them in their hour of adversity. I've walked with them through the mud that floodwaters left on their kitchen floors. I've stod with them in the rubble of their destroyed homes as they retrieved a few pitiful belongings. I've watched industrialists—working alongside their men in T-shirts and dungareesstart to pull ceiling-high debris out of the intricate works of mammoth machines. I've seen store owners, their shelves of goods matted into a sodden mass, sweep thousands of dollars worth of inventory into the streets. I talked with people who had lost a brother, a sister, a husband, a wife, a child to the swirling floodwaters.
It has been the saddest experience of my life.
Yet. ererywhere I met courage. Everywhere I met dignity. Everywhere I met a willingness to fight back and win.
These people have given their very bodies and hearts to this disaster.
Now the eyes of these people are on us. They need our help. They expect us to act with the grandeur and with the fortitude they have shown. They do not want political wrangling to enter into our deliberations.
An epochal crisis confronts us. The most critical assignment ever facing a Connecticut Legislature is yours.
We will be judged by history—and by the people of Connecticut—by the manner in which we rise to this challenge. I am confident we will meet this obligation in nonpartisan, responsible unity.
May God's guidance be with all of us in these critical days ahead.
REPORT OF THE CONNECTICUT FLOOD RECOVERY COMMITTEE TO Gov. ABRAHAM
RIBICOFF, NOVEMBER 3, 1955
On August 19, 1955, Connecticut was the hardest hit victim of the worst flood in the history of eastern United States. A week earlier, August 13, the wake of Hurricane Connie deposited from 4 to 6 inches of rainfall on the State. On Thursday, August 18, the backlash of Hurricane Diane unleashed 14 inches of rain within a 30-hour period between Thursday morning and Friday noon. The already saturated terrain could not absorb Diane's downpour. Rivers, brooks, and streams which had virtually dried up during the parched months of July and early August were converted within a few hours into raging torrents which cut terrifying paths of destruction. The Mad and Still Rivers in Winsted the Saugatuck, the Farmington, and the Quinebaug in the Putnam-Killingly area were the worst destroyers. Many lesser streams also wreaked their share of havoc. By the time the waters had subsided the flash floods had taken nearly 100 lives and caused damage estimated at $200 million.
Under the general direction of Governor Ribicoff, all resources were immediately mobilized to combat the disaster. Saving life and caring for stricken families came first. State, Federal, municipal, and private agencies as well as individuals, joined in rescue, feeding, and shelter operations.
On Saturday, August 27, the Governor appointed a flood-recovery committee to study the many problems facing the State and its citizens in overcoming the disaster and to map out a program of immediate and long-range rehabilitation.
The membership of this committee is as follows: Chairman Sherman R. Knapp, president, the Connecticut Light & Power Co.,
Berlin Lucius S. Rowe, president, Southern New England Telephone Co., New Haven Harold V. Bossa, president, Savings Bank Association of Connecticut, Stamford Norris W. Ford, executive vice president, Manufacturers Association of Con
necticut, West Hartford Lester Shippee, chairman, Connecticut Bank & Trust Co., Hartford John A. Coe, Jr., president, American Brass Co., Waterbury Frazar E. Wilde, president, Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., Hartford Ostrom Enders, president, Hartford National Bank & Trust Co., Hartford Mitchell Sviridoff, president, Connecticut Industrial Union Council, CIO, Bridge
port Joseph Rourke, secretary-treasurer, Connecticut Federation of Labor, A. F. of
L., Hamden William M. Savitt, chairman, Hartford Retail Board, Hartford Norman K. Parsells, majority leader, Connecticut House of Representatives,
Fairfield W. Sheffield Cowles, speaker, Connecticut House of Representatives, Farm.
ington Joseph S. Longo, majority leader, Connecticut State Senate, Norwich Patrick J. Ward, president pro tempore, Connecticut State Senate, Hartford William T. Sheasby, mayor, city of Ansonia John N. Dempsey, mayor, city of Putnam Mrs. John Briscoe, president, Connecticut League of Women Voters, Lakeville Bernard Kranowitz, executive vice president, New Britain Chamber of Com.
merce, New Britain W. B. Young, dean, College of Agriculture, University of Connecticut, Storrs
A final, accurate appraisal of the damage caused by the floods may never be made. Surveys indicated that residential property damage as the result of the August 19 flood amounted to approximately $27.2 million. This included 668 rwellings totally destroyed, 2,460 which suffered major damage, and 5,213 which incurred minor damage. It has also been reported that 507 industrial establishments suffered an estimated $88.4 million damage to buildings, inventory, ma
chinery, and materials. Some 1,436 commercial establishments were damaged to the extent of $45.5 million. Agricultural losses at 922 reporting farms were estimated at $2.5 million not including damage to the land itself. The damage to public property, including highways, bridges, buildings, equipment, and other facilities was estimated to be $36.8 million.
These estimates of damage add up to $202.8 million. In order to appreciate the magnitude of this disaster it is helpful to compare this total dollar loss to other significant factors. For instance, the total tax income to the State for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1956, is estimated at $172.2 million and the total property taxes levied by all Connecticut municipalities in 1954 amounted to $194.1 million.
At the first meeting of the flood recovery committee on August 31, in the capitol, Governor Ribicoff outlined the problems confronting the State and the communities which had suffered severe damage in the flood. He stated that it was the committee's responsibility to make recommendations for legislative action to relieve the suffering caused by the flood and to make plans for rehabilitation which would result in a better Connecticut. He said that he expected the committee to undertake its job in a nonpartisan manner and to consider only the best interests of the entire State and its people in its deliberations. If this policy were followed, he felt that the committee, having the confidence of the people, could be of very material assistance to the special session of the legislature which he proposed to call to implement the committee's conclusions and recommendations.
In order to deal with the many varied problems, the committee was broken up into five subcommittees as follows: State reconstruction costs
Messrs. Rowe (chairman), Shippee, Dempsey, Sheasby, Cowles, Ward.
Responsibility.—To determine the cost to the State of reconstruction, including State aid to towns, and make recommendations concerning the State's participation in financing cost of flood damage to public property. Housing
Messrs. Longo (chairman), Bossa, Parsells, Sviridoff, Enders.
Responsibility.—To determine housing losses in the affected areas and the resulting need for replacements, with recommendations concerning private State or Federal action to meet the need. Aid to flood victims
Messrs. Young (chairman), Rourke, Ford, Wilde, Kranowitz, Savitt, Mrs. Briscoe.
Responsibility.—To review the various sources and types of finanical aid arailable to all classes of flood victims. Determine whether additional aid from the State is desirable and, if so, how it might be administered equitably. Study the Unemployment Compensation Act as it applies to employers and employees affected by the flood. Reconstruction planning Messrs. Wilde (chairman), Coe, Enders, Sviridoff, Rowe, Mrs. Briscoe.
Responsibility.--To formulate recommendations concerning immediate and long-range planning for devastated areas (towns and regions) including necesa sary changes in existing statutes. Consider flood-control measures. Legislative
Messrs. Parsells (chairman), Longo, Ford, Young, Rourke.
Responsibility.—To determine what changes in existing laws will be necessary because of the flood. Consider the type of legislation which will be needed to implement the food recovery committee's recommendations.
To expedite the work of the committee a coordinating group was formed con. sisting the chairmen of the five subcommittees and the general chairman. In addition to numerous meetings of the various subcommittees, meetings of the general committee and the coordinating group were held as follows:
August 31, September 9, 16: General committee; September 26: (Coordinat ng group; September 27 : General committee; October 5, 12: Coordinating group: October 19: General committee; October 23: Coordinating group; October 2: General committee.
While most of the members of the committee have visited many of the foodstricken areas individually, it appeared desirable for the committee as a group to inspect a substantial portion of the most badly damaged sections. This was done on Monday, October 3, starting at Ansonia and proceeding to Seymour, Beacon Falls, Naugatuck, Waterbury, Thomaston, Torrington, Winsted, and Unionville. In each instance contact was made with municipal officials and their ideas were given serious consideration. On Saturday, October 8, a few members of the committee met with representatives of the town of Washington and toured the devastated Washington Depot area.
Recognizing the need for staff assistance in compiling data concerning the flood, Governor Ribicoff assigned J. M. Loughlin, commissioner of finance and control; Robert Wall, legislative commissioner; and R. P. Lee, chairman of the Connecticut Development Commission to assist the committee. In addition other State officers and representatives of organizations functioning in the disaster such as the Red Cross, the Small Business Administration, and the Army engineers were called upon for information and assistance.
By the early part of October it appeared that the work of the committee at least with respect to recommendations requiring legislative action could be completed by November 1 and on October 10, after consulting with legislative leaders, Governor Ribicoff set November 9, 1955, as the date for convening the general assembly. With relief agencies working at maximum capacity and with the rapid progress being made in the physical process of recovery, Connecticut seemed to be moving slowly but steadily along the road back. This weary journey, however, was due to be interrupted by a second flood disaster.
Heavy rains, beginning on Friday, October 14, and continuing through Sunday, the 16th, combined with winds of gale velocity and high tides brought destruction to Norwalk, Stamford, and other shore towns in Connecticut's southwestern area. Danbury was another hard-hit victim. Other towns, principally in the western part of the State, which only 8 weeks before had borne the brunt of Hurricane Diane's torrential fury, were again inundated. Roads and bridges repaired after the August flood were again washed out. Seventeen were dead, none missing. Flood losses ran into millions and, for the second time within 2 months, Connecticut was declared a disaster area by President Eisenhower.
In spite of new areas being damaged by the second flood and some areas being damaged by both floods, the second disaster did not reveal any new kinds of problems not already being considered by the committee. It was not felt necessary, therefore, to postpone the completion date of the committee's report beyond November 1 even though it would not be possible to have an accurate estimate of the damage caused by the October 16 flood. In fact the second disaster emphasized the need for moving ahead with the recovery program as rapidly as possible. Although the destruction in October was only 10 to 15 percent of the August disaster, the effect on the morale of the people—particularly those who suffered from both-was more damaging than the first flood. It was sharply evident that action must be taken to meet both the immediate problems and the longer range problems which would prevent a repetition of the terrible personal suffering and the economic loss to which the people of Connecticut have been subjected.
The flood recovery committee would be remiss, indeed, if it did not acknowledge publicly the unstinting cooperation it has received on all sides. The committee also wishes to thank, on behalf of flood sufferers and the people of the State, the Corps of Army Engineers for their work in clearing debris from floodstricken areas and their monumental rehabilitation efforts. Sums amounting to $9 million were pledged by the Federal Government to aid recovery and effect permanent improvements after Hurricane Diane struck and another $4 million may be made available to help repair the mid-October damage. During and immediately following the floods the job done by the Connecticut National Guard hoth in the air and on the ground, the work of the State and local civil-defense organizations and the State police all helped immeasurably to bring order out of chaos. The gratitude of the State is also due the Federal Civil Defense Administration, the Federal Housing Authority, the Farmers' Home Administration, and the Small Business Administration; the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army; such special committees as the merchants' disaster committee and the United Service Clubs Committee which were concerned with the needs of business and industry, and to many other organizations and individuals. Because of these agencies, organizations, and individuals, and the indomitable spirit of Connecticut's citizens, the State is already well on its way to recovery and the task of this committee has been made much easier.
The report which follows sets forth the general policies of the flood recovery committee and presents its conclusions and recommendations. An appendix containing pertinent data which the committee considers will be helpful to the