Letter: BP windfall should go to education as well as coastal restoration

Talk of Louisiana receiving a multi-billion dollar windfall is in the air and the politically powerful are already planning to get their hands on the money.

On a date in the near or distant future, Louisiana will receive what should be the largest windfall in state history in the form of billions of dollars paid to the state by BP as fine money for the huge 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Business and political forces want to spend all of the BP fine money on coastal restoration.

Surely, in the coming years, a number of parties will contribute to coastal restoration. The state will use some BP fine money to rebuild the coast. The oil companies will close marsh canals. The federal government will pay to protect vital coastal locations and the state will spend the billions dedicated by the voters to coastal restoration from oil and gas production beyond the 3 mile limit in the Gulf.

Coastal restoration is a meritorious goal, however, there are scientist who opine that with south Louisiana sinking and the oceans rising, at least some of the planned projects will eventually disappear below the waters of the Gulf.

Louisiana should not put all of the fine money in one bag, parts of which might sink. Why not hedge our bet? Use the majority of the fine money for coastal restoration but set aside a billion dollars and invest it in a state fund that has proven to be the wisest investment of windfall money in state history, i.e., The Quality Education Support Fund, The 8(g) fund.

The 8(g) fund has grown from the state’s initial investment in 1986 of a $540 million windfall received from the federal government to a present value of $1.2 billion. A majority of the annual interest earned is spent improving the quality of education for all Louisiana students from kindergarten through university post graduate studies. The balance of the interest is reinvested.

In retrospect, Louisiana has allowed too many of its rich, finite natural resources to be squandered on projects that helped the promoters but did nothing to help the state climb out of the nation’s educational cellar. Meanwhile, to the west, Texas used its natural resources to build a world class educational system.

Louisiana, let’s be smart — not political — for a change. Do something that is guaranteed to help our state. More money in 8(g) means more quality in Louisiana schools and universities.

Invest BP fine money in the 8(g) education fund. This will cause a quantum leap in the quality of education for all Louisiana students and for posterity.

Howard Franques

retired lawyer

Lafayette