If there is one constant in ever-shifting politics in Washington, it is that the president's Office of Management and Budget will try to hold on to as much of the U.S. government's revenues as it can.
Given that the budget hasn't been balanced since the Clinton administration, obviously that's a good thing from OMB's standpoint. But it can lead OMB into trying to break promises made to others, including the state of Louisiana and its Gulf of Mexico neighbors.
In budgets during the Obama administration, and in the first budget proposal of President Donald Trump's new administration, the U.S. government sought to pare back or eliminate a long-term promise to the Gulf states: revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas production.
True, the presidential budgets are only recommendations to Congress and are often changed. In fact, Louisiana's delegation in Congress has been quite successful in defending the revenue-sharing provisions of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA.
Now, though, the new Trump budget proposal backs away from the long-standing efforts to raid GOMESA revenues.
GOMESA will give a growing share of federal royalties from offshore drilling in the Gulf with the coastal states of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. It has been a recognition of the impact that the oil and gas production has on the states hosting offshore service and production facilities.
Louisiana is slated to receive the largest cut of the royalties under the formula, which Congress set up under the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act and is scheduled to deliver its first major payments to the states this year.
We think this positive shift on GOMESA is a tribute to the lobbying of members of the state's delegation, particularly focusing on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has visited the state at the behest of U.S. senators Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge and John N. Kennedy, of Madisonville, as well as U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge.
Nearly all of Louisiana's share is dedicated to coastal restoration efforts — and represents a major chunk of funding for projects outlined in the state's coastal master plan, which envisions 50 years of costly interventions designed to stem the rate at which Louisiana's coast has been disappearing. Graves is one of those well-positioned to make that argument, as a former head of the state's coastal protection efforts under former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Congress actually boosted the program last year — with Cassidy being a key player in the arrangement — by raising caps on the amount of federal oil and gas royalties the states can split. The change, included in the Republican tax-cut bill, could potentially send millions more to Louisiana over the coming years if offshore oil production picks up.
It's not the be-all and end-all of Louisiana's coastal protection efforts, but that steady flow of money is critical. We commend all those in the state and federal governments who have recognized the long-term savings from hurricane protection and future energy production through preservation of our state's coastline.