Questions still remain concerning BP settlement money

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After BP's historic settlement with the Gulf Coast states over the 2010 oil disaster, there are perhaps just as many questions as answers about how Louisiana will use the $6.8 billion the state is set to receive.

When people talk about the BP oil settlement money that's soon to be rolling into Louisiana, it doesn't take long for the conversation to turn to descriptions of "trust fund babies" and "a kid in a candy store." The references are made specifically in regards to how the Louisiana Legislature will annually spend the $500 million that belongs to Louisiana residents.

"I'm not saying this will happen, but the risk is there," Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy said. "That a future legislature will look at this money, $500 million a year, each and every year, a mailbox money, if you will, and put all four feet and its snout in the trough and just go spend it on whatever they want to, every pet project they can imagine. Now, I'm not predicting that will happen, but I'm telling you that this money is not protected."

Kennedy's other major concern is whether or not BP will be around long enough to pay what's owed.

"What's our collateral? What's our security? I want to have more than just BP's word or signature on the contract that they're going to be around over 15 years to pay this money they owe to the people and taxpayers of Louisiana," Kennedy added.

The settlement's price tag is unprecedented, but there have been similar settlements to make their way to Louisiana, like offshore royalties and the tobacco settlement. In those cases, lawmakers put controls in place, but even with those, it's not always good news.

"This dedication is a double-edged sword. Once you dedicate the money, you tie your hands. That's the bad news. Once you dedicate the money, you tie your hands. That's the good news. If our people, our taxpayers really want this money spent on coastal restoration and I think most of them do, [then] the only way to be absolutely certain that it's spent on coastal restoration is to lock it up somehow," Kennedy explained.

The settlement and its exact details have been sealed by a judge, but once the details are released, the public will get a chance to see them and weigh in on what's best.

Several municipalities and agencies are meeting this week to further discuss their portions of the settlement, including Visit Baton Rouge, which called a special meeting for 8 a.m. Wednesday. There's no word on how much Visit Baton Rouge is poised to receive.

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