Leander Perez, the powerful boss of Plaquemines Parish who not only controlled people but also a wealth of mineral rights, refused to take the deal. Perez was a greedy man by all accounts '' he redrew entire city boundaries to move along personal business deals '' so it was no surprise when he held out for 100 percent of all royalties off Louisiana's shoreline.
"Give 'em Hell" Truman, as he was called for his tenacious political style, told both of the Bayou State politicos to stuff it, and other states snatched the deal. Today, Louisiana contributes more than $5 billion annually to the federal treasury from offshore oil and gas activity. As a result of those hardhead tactics 57 years ago, the state only gets back a measly $39 million each year.
Nearly three generations of congressmen and governors have tried to remedy the situation, but the issue hasn't budged a bit. Meanwhile, inland states like New Mexico get back upwards of 50 percent of the oil-and-gas revenue they send to the federal government ' but few deposit as much as Louisiana.
The most recent incarnation of this campaign came last month when Gov. Kathleen Blanco made national headlines for her comments about sticking it to the feds. "It's time to play hardball, as I believe that's the only game Washington understands," she told lawmakers at the beginning of the most recent special session.
What Blanco means by "hardball" is her refusal to sign off on future federal offshore oil and gas royalties from Louisiana's coastline. But Gary Strasburg, a spokesman for the Minerals Management Service, told The New York Times that Blanco's approval of the leases is only an "intergovernmental courtesy" and wouldn't stop the feds from getting their cash. If Blanco's refusal to cooperate ends up in court, there's no telling where her "hardball" tactics might lead.
Rep. Bobby Jindal, a Metairie Republican, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, are taking a more practical approach in Congress. Seeing that block grants and one-time injections will only carry Louisiana so far during recovery, both have filed legislation that would raise all coastal states' shares of royalties to 75 percent for the area between three and 12 miles offshore, and eventually 50 percent further out.
Supporters from parish presidents and state representatives to congressmen from Virginia and special interest groups are backing the Jindal and Landrieu bills.
Another tactic is being pushed by Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican. He is talking with Gulf Coast lawmakers about adding a coastal restoration fund to his drilling bill, which would not exactly increase any royalty shares, but would provide a long-term funding mechanism.
Mark Davis, executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, is pleased to see the momentum building, but he has seen it before. Although the state has sympathy on its side and a governor willing to play "hardball," Davis says the concept of greater revenue sharing is still a long way off and the state should be exploring other alternatives for long-term funding.
"Louisiana can't afford to tie its wagon to a national revenue sharing campaign," he says. "It's just one option. â?¦ I don't think we should assume anything about the political environment right now. We're still a long way from success, and there are some huge roadblocks. We've come close before, and we've never actually crossed the goal line."
The stage was set three years ago when former Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin '' as chairman of the House Energy Committee '' passed an energy bill through the House with language granting Louisiana $1 billion over a number of years. It failed in the Senate by two votes. Again in 2001, Tauzin had brokered a deal for $600 million in another bill, but it too failed.
"We had done a great job of delivering the right message and making the case, but it got caught up in politics," Tauzin says. "The objections came from appropriators who wanted to keep controlling the money every year."
Rather than just handing a lump sum over to Louisiana, and possibly impacting programs in other states, Tauzin says lawmakers chose to maintain control over the purse strings. So while Louisiana might have the sympathy of the nation thanks to Katrina and Rita, that political reality remains.
Additionally, there's always the danger that Louisiana's efforts will be viewed as a money grab, especially when Blanco put such a positive spin on the state budget '' even though one of the nation's worst natural disasters hit about six months ago. When the governor proposed her $20.3 billion budget last week, it was not filled with cuts or cautionary verse, but rather pay raises for teachers and professors as well as status quo priorities.
Davis says Louisiana needs to figure out a way to leverage its needs and show Congress that more money is required to recover and strengthen the coast. He refers to it as the "free milk and the cow situation," which isn't working out.
"Why should [Congress] feel any pressure to help us?" he asks.
Tauzin says the federal government will learn '' if they haven't already '' that paying to protect Louisiana now will be cheaper than paying to put the pieces back together again later. Until then, Louisiana needs a solid strategy, one not based on "hardball" tactics that could possibly backfire, he adds.
"I don't think Louisiana needs to threaten," Tauzin says. "I think Louisiana has the support and the sympathy of the nation. If we squander it, it's our own fault. The nation is ready to rally behind rebuilding and revenue sharing. I just don't think we need to threaten to get there."
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.