BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — State senators voted Wednesday to rewrite plans for spending Gulf oil spill recovery money tied to Louisiana's economic damages from the disaster, seeking to erase earmarks that would sock the money into state savings accounts.
Under a law passed two years ago, most of the money will be steered to the state's "rainy day" fund and an elderly trust fund drained during former Gov. Bobby Jindal's tenure.
But under the proposal approved 26-10 by the Senate, those earmarks would be scrapped.
The money instead would flow into the state's general fund for lawmakers to spend on government operating expenses, "for the Legislature to use it as we saw fit when we receive it," said Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville.
Donahue's proposal received little discussion on the Senate floor Wednesday, but it's opposed by the state nursing home association for taking dollars intended for the elderly trust fund. The bill goes next to the House for consideration.
Louisiana is expected to receive as much as $1 billion from BP PLC, compensation for economic damages from the massive 2010 oil spill.
The economic damages dollars are separate from an estimated $5.8 billion Louisiana is expected to receive in other civil penalties from violations of environmental laws, money that's required to be set aside for coastal restoration projects and environmental rehabilitation.
Lawmakers already reworked the earmarks once, in a special legislative session earlier this year. At the request of Gov. John Bel Edwards, they agreed to carve off the first $200 million of the economic damages money to plug holes in this year's budget.
The remaining money is expected to arrive in installments over about 15 years.
The 2014 law spelling out use of the economic damages money was intended to repay trust funds that had been raided in earlier budget balancing efforts.
Passage of the legislation containing the earmarks also helped Jindal settle a 2010 lawsuit claiming Louisiana hadn't properly refilled the rainy day fund after its use several years ago. The changes would appear to conflict with that legal settlement.
Online: Senate Bill 272: www.legis.la.gov. Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte. Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted on Fri, April 15, 2016
by MELINDA DESLATTE Associated Press