U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., early this morning voted in favor of the Senate budget resolution that supports Louisiana's middle class families. The resolution contains numerous priorities for Louisiana, including an amendment offered by Sen. Landrieu allowing for future funding of veterans clinics in Lake Charles and Lafayette and removing a budgetary hurdle to their construction, as well as language that allows for increased revenue sharing with coastal states under Sen. Landrieu's Fixing America's Inequities with Revenues (FAIR) Act. Sen. Landrieu was also able to successfully prevent Senate leadership from singling out the oil and gas industry for higher taxes-a real possibility until the Senator weighed in.
Fighting for VA Clinics
Last September, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) changed its characterization of Major Medical Facility leases, requiring the Veterans Administration to pay for a full 20 years of rent upfront for health clinics. While the leases would have normally cost just over $126 million, they are now scored at almost $1.4 billion. Due to these costs, 15 clinics across the country could not be authorized in fiscal year 2013, including clinics in Lake Charles and Lafayette. To address this issue, Sen. Landrieu successfully included an amendment to the budget that allows for future funding of these clinics and eliminates one of the budgetary hurdles delaying their construction.
"Because of a bureaucratic bottleneck at CBO, veterans across the country, including 20,000 in South Louisiana have faced unacceptable delays in these health clinics. After the sacrifices these brave men and women have made for our country, it is unconscionable to allow this to continue. Our veterans deserve quality, convenient health care. This amendment puts us on a path to fixing this problem, and I call on my colleagues, particularly the House and Senate leadership, to work together achieve a resolution," Sen. Landrieu said.
Last month, Sen. Landrieu and Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr., M.D., R-La., introduced the Keep Our Commitment to Veterans Act, which will authorize the Lafayette clinic to stay open, as well as the proposed clinic in Lake Charles.
Clearing a path for Revenue Sharing
The budget also includes language that makes room for increased revenue sharing under Sen. Landrieu's FAIR Act, which she introduced last week along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. This legislation would authorize 37.5 percent of revenues for all offshore energy producing states, regardless the type of energy produced. States that produce renewable energy on federal lands within their borders would keep 50 percent of revenues, just as they currently do for traditional energy. It would also gradually lift the current congressionally mandated $500-million annual cap on revenues kept by Gulf Coast producing states. These funds will be an important investment in Louisiana's 50-year, $50 billion Coastal Master Plan to restore our coast and protect our communities from storm surges.
Not singling out the oil and gas industry for an unfair share of debt and deficit reduction.
Some in Congress believe that to balance the budget they need raise taxes solely on the oil and gas industry. Sen. Landrieu wrote to the lead senators in charge of writing the budget and successfully argued that the oil and gas industry supports 300,000 jobs in Louisiana and provides energy security for the entire nation. The budget that passed this morning did not include tax increases on this important sector.