My Louisiana colleague Dr. Ralph Abraham put it best: “It’s fitting the president released his (budget) plan on Groundhog Day.” The president’s budget released earlier this week espouses more of the same big-spending policies that are continuing to mortgage our fiscal future. This plan runs a deficit of $474 billion, never balances and actually predicts an increased deficit of $687 billion in 10 years. But that’s just what lies on the surface. Looking deeper, I’m even more concerned about the impact this proposal could have in Louisiana if enacted.
For instance, this budget slashes funding for dredging and port maintenance by 17 percent from last year. Louisiana boasts six deep-draft seaports and 16 inland river ports moving 500 million tons of cargo and supporting 1 in 5 Louisiana jobs, according to the Ports Association of Louisiana. This has been an issue we’ve worked on for years with great success, but the president is proposing to take it all away. I secured legislative language in 2014’s Water Resources Reform and Development Act that forces the government to actually use dollars collected for dredging on dredging projects, which was subsequently signed into law. The president’s budget makes drastic reductions to this funding after I worked hard to make our water infrastructure a priority. This action shows the president simply does not understand the positive impact the maritime industry has on our economy as a whole.
The Obama administration also proposes new tax hikes totaling over $4.1 billion on American oil and gas production while simultaneously adding new tax incentives for wind and solar energy, not to mention arbitrarily scrapping decades of bipartisan progress on offshore revenue sharing we finally passed in 2006 with GOMESA. The real irony is that the president spent much of his State of the Union address only a few weeks ago attempting to take credit for the success of the American energy industry and its impact on job creation — but what this budget proposal demonstrates is that this success happened in spite of his policies, not because of them. Last year, the Bureau of Land Management issued the fewest number of oil and gas leases on public lands in over 25 years while the administration continues its opposition to energy infrastructure construction projects like the Keystone XL pipeline that even the president’s own Department of State estimates would create over 40,000 direct and indirect jobs. I fought to protect Louisiana jobs in the tax reform draft released last year by House Republicans and will continue to work to ensure important provisions like intangible drilling cost expensing are not eliminated. Unfortunately, the president’s budget continues his hostility to American energy production and the tremendous positive impact it has both on the Louisiana economy and the American economy.
Luckily, this toxic document has been declared dead on arrival in the new Congress. But it doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. This partisan wish list telegraphs just how far the president is willing to go if he gets his way — it will take a strong response from Congress pushing back on new executive actions to ensure Louisiana is protected.
In spite of this, I remain optimistic about Louisiana’s future. In my district in south Louisiana, unemployment is low, investment in new energy and water infrastructure is up, and jobs numbers are positive. There is no question we face challenges — not least global oil prices threatening to cut energy jobs we’ve worked so hard to build. But I know our state has the potential to lead the American resurgence as we build an economy around energy production, shipping and trade, reflecting the diversity of the state we live in.
Charles Boustany represents Louisiana’s 3rd District in Congress.