Landrieu: Infrastructure investment vital
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, spoke at noon at the Morgan City Port meeting room Thursday. From left are Parish President Paul Naquin, Landrieu, Port Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade and Morgan City Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi.
(The Daily Review Photo by Preston Gill)
Investments in Louisiana’s ports and infrastructure are vital and in a time of tight budgets, Louisiana must fight for an equitable distribution of the federal pie along with a commitment from the governor and legislature to find revenue sources to keep the state from falling behind in global competition.
That is what a room full of elected officials from across the parish heard U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, say as she recounted what she called a “proven record of delivering for Louisiana’s ports and maritime industry” at a noon stop in Morgan City.
Morgan City and other areas of Louisiana helped birth the oil industry that drilled, pumped and shipped billions of gallons of oil worth billions of dollars from the Gulf, Landrieu said.
Louisiana’s infrastructure, coastal marshes and environment are all affected by the demands of energy production that fuels the nation, she said. Repairing and maintaining the highways, keeping ports operating and the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers dredged must be funded for the state and country’s well-being, Landrieu said.
Landrieu said she would continue to use her experience and clout in the Senate to procure funding for the energy and maritime industries of Louisiana.
“There is just not enough money to move around to support port infrastructure,” so new revenue sources and savings must be found, Landrieu said.
For decades the state has not been fairly compensated for the impositions on its infrastructure, while inland states received 50 percent of the tax revenues generated from onshore oil and gas production on federal lands, she said.
That changed with the Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act and later the passage of Fixing America’s Inequity with Revenues (FAIR) Act, which she cosponsored with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, she said.
Under the bills, four Gulf states will share in 37.5 percent of federal offshore oil and gas royalties with a $500 million cap, which she is working to remove. Louisiana is expected to receive close to half of the funds, with the rest going to Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.
After the April 20, 2010, BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, she and U.S. Sen. Dick Shelby, R-Ala., worked to pass the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities (RESTORE) Act which committed 80 percent of the civil penalties for the oil spill to coastal states, she said.
She chided Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature for not doing enough to fund critical projects.
There was $350 million dollars spent on the Houston port, while Louisiana only spends $20 million in capital outlays for ports in the entire state, she said.
The state could generate $800 million if it would set up a commission to collect sales taxes from online sales, she said. This would be a business-friendly measure that generates revenue for the state, Landrieu said.
That was attempted twice in the Legislature, but was killed in committee by the governor each time, state Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Gray, said.
“The governor should be ashamed of himself,” Landrieu quipped quickly. “Nickel and dime” solutions are not enough, she said.
“Five or $10 million here or there will not build a future we need for our kids,” Landrieu said.
Landrieu discussed the departure of McDermott for Mexico and national flood insurance.
“I am still aggravated that McDermott left,” Landrieu said. “We are checking to see if they got any tax subsidies they may have used to do that. Taxpayers cannot be asked to subsidize a company for them to leave. They cannot move at our expense … Fair is fair and that is not fair.”
Parish President Paul Naquin thanked Landrieu for her assistance in protecting the parish from steep flood insurance increases that were predicted as a result of the Biggert-Waters Act.
She said from Day 1 she worked to undo its implementation. She said the Louisiana delegation was united in its fight to protect citizens from the Act.
Morgan City Port Executive Director Mac Wade expressed appreciation for Landrieu’s assistance in getting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to credit the value of goods passing through the port in the corps’ dredging priorities. Landrieu added a provision to a corps funding bill earlier this year to force the issue.
Landrieu acknowledged the port’s need for funding and said although there was a “limited pot” of federal money for ports throughout the country, she would work to help Morgan City get what it needs.
After the meeting, Landrieu was asked about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and her position on the recent U.S. actions in Iraq.
The exposure of 800,000 people in Louisiana to catastrophic medical costs before the act’s passage was not acceptable, Landrieu said. Now everyone, including the sick and those with pre-existing conditions, has access to affordable insurance, she said. The effects of Obamacare are being studied, but it is too early to make authoritative pronouncements on the success or lack thereof of the program, she said.
“There are stories of some costs going up and lots of stories of costs going down, but no law is perfect,” Landrieu said. “If there are parts that need to be fixed I am prepared to fix it and make it better … It is a much better system than what we had before.”
Landrieu said she supports the president’s decision to send in airstrikes to protect the Kurds in Iraq “and the people fighting hard for democracy. I think we have to be very careful about escalating it … but we have to provide some help, where we can, to protect against the slaughter of innocents.”
She said she doubted if there were many people in the country, including herself, who would support the U.S. returning to a war footing in Iraq.