Bigger share of oil and gas tax revenues up for grabs - but will LA get them?
Put aside the folly of calling an "Extraordinary Session" of the lege in the midst of the Christmas Holidays. Put aside the folly of calling the session to extend over two weekends during which the lege is loathed to work. Put aside Governor Blanco's refusal to call an emergency session of the lege following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Put aside the lack of a specific plan of action going into a Special Session.
You can even put aside the lack of public input because there is no specific plan of action.
Consider for a moment that in all likelihood the last chance for LA to get a bigger share of offshore oil and gas tax revenues is during the current "lame duck" session.
Consider that one of LA's biggest arguments is for a bigger share of the offshore revenues is because LA's suffers the environmental and other costs of producing so much of the oil and gas that is used by the rest of America. As a result we have allegedly lost miles of the coastal wetlands which act as a barrier to future natural catastrophes. According to the governor and the leges, stopping the coastal erosion and rebuilding the wetlands is a top priority for our state.
Consider the state currently is faced with an "embarrassment of riches" of at least $1.6 BILLION and probably closer to $2 BILLION. Most of which is a result of the disasters that hit our state.
Consider the spending priorities being proposed for the upcoming special session: 1) Pay raises for all manner of public employees. 2) Paying off the debt (at great extra cost) of a poorly thought-out, actuarially unsound, state-run, casualty insurance program. 3) Writing rebate checks to all who were over-taxed to pay for the deficit in the state-run insurance program. Laughable when one considers that a $760 Million contractor cannot get the checks out to a handful of people. 4) Selling off the remainder of the Tobacco Settlement. 5) Money for highways and bridges based on politics and not priority. And finally, 6) who knows what.
Consider the message that the agenda for this special session is sending to Congress.
Not one dime of the "embarrassment of riches" is being spent on coastal erosion, flood protection or anything directly related to preparing out state for future catastrophes.
Despite having already appropriated over $10 BILLION to reimburse the citizens of the state for their losses due to the negligence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the ravages of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita only 44 checks have been written. Despite the fact that that $6 BILLION of that money was made available 11 months ago.
We are in effect telling Congress that we don't consider coastal erosion and flood protection a high priority when it comes to spending OUR funds. It's just a priority for THEIR funds.
We are telling Congress that we just want more money even though we have no sense of priorities or urgency for the monies that they have already sent us. We are telling Congress that while we can't spend the money that they already provided us, we want more.
Given the above, if I was another state I would a hard time reconciling giving us more money especially it would mean giving up money that could be spent in my state.
Maybe it's just that Governor Blanco and the leges think that the Congressmen are as dumb as they think we LA citizens are.
My advice to the governor is not to call the session.
It's not too late to save us from another national embarrassment.
It's not too late to stop the wrong message to Congress during the "lame duck" session.
It's not too late to save the taxpayers a few dollars and doing all the things you plan to do all of which can be done in the 2007 Regular Session next spring.
It just might show Congress that we understand the folly of wasting the taxpayers' money.
It's not too late, governor, but it soon will be.
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