Lawmakers divide expected oil spill recovery money

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm •  Published: May 30, 2014
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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Lawmakers want to steer Gulf oil spill recovery money to help refill Louisiana's "rainy day" fund and an elderly trust fund that was raided to fill budget holes.

The plan taps into dollars that BP PLC is expected to pay for the state's claims of economic damage caused by the massive 2010 spill. Those claims are the subject of ongoing federal litigation, and it's unclear when any of the money might be available to the state.

The House gave final passage Friday to the budget bill that contained the plans for the recovery money, sending it to Gov. Bobby Jindal for consideration. The governor had proposed using the dollars for the rainy day fund, which is the state's savings account, but not the other items on the list.

The bill would use up about $1 billion from an economic damages award. Any dollars beyond that could be spent on other items.

The plan to refill the rainy day fund was devised by Sen. Sherri Smith Buffington, R-Keithville, in amendments to a bill by Rep. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro.

"I thought it was good fiscal management of the BP dollars that would come in a future settlement," said Fannin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue objected to carving up the money.

"The money's going to come in, and we're going to have no options because we will have given it all away," Donahue, R-Mandeville, told senators Thursday.

But he was unable to persuade his colleagues.

Billions of dollars in civil penalties expected to hit BP because of violations of environmental laws have strings attached in both federal and state statute, requiring the money to be spent on coastal protection and restoration projects.