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."
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.