The Coast is very close to making an offer for spending BP economic damages money that will be very hard for the state to refuse.
The best idea we’ve heard: Using most of the $750 million in economic damages to create a trust fund administered by an independent board to choose Coast projects to spend the money on.
Most everyone agrees that most of the economic damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf were inflicted on the Coast. And most everyone agrees that any project that creates jobs and stimulates the Coast economy also generates tax revenue that benefits the rest of the state.
The idea that the money would be best spent elsewhere just won’t die, though. But it should.
The best way to kill that bad idea is to show the state that the Coast has a much better idea. We do.
Our idea would invest money in long-term projects. Those projects should be based on a simple formula laid out for the Sun Herald by Hancock Holding President and CEO John Hairston.
“If we spend a dollar, we get a dollar — through increased jobs, through increased tax revenues, which benefit both our schools and the government,” he said.
Hairston said if we look back 15 years from now and can’t find the jobs created, the value created, the better quality of life and better opportunities for our children by our BP projects, we have failed.
And that’s just what will happen if the money is divided equally among the four congressional districts — one of the more harebrained schemes we’ve heard.
Our biggest ally in the Legislature, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, has a vision similar to the Coast’s. He hopes to be able to look back 50 years from now and see the benefits of smart decisions we’ve made with the money.
We’re developing the framework for doing that.
We have the makings of the right plan but it isn’t finished. The Coast Mayors Forum is working on it. The Gulf Coast Business Council is helping. Still there are some disagreements that need to be resolved before it is presented to the Legislature early next year.
The best news is, so far, deciding what to do with the BP windfall is bringing the Coast together, not dividing it. And a united Coast is our best hope of getting our share of the money.
Let’s get this done.
The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.