(photo: Judge Leander Perez)
Louisiana has more natural wealth than the other southern states put together. But a major political blunder 70 years ago has cost this state many billions of dollars. We will spend the next several decades trying to make up for the money that was lost in the past. And with a little common sense, it all could have been avoided.
Louisiana’s single biggest missed opportunity was the financial debacle that took place in the early 1950s when Earl Long was the state’s governor and Judge Leander Perez ran Plaquemines Parish with an iron fist. For years, the state and the feds had bickered and fought over where the Louisiana borders ended and federal jurisdiction began. At stake were not millions, but literally billions of future dollars in oil and gas reserves.
Senator Ellender and Long struck with what would have been a heck of deal with then President Harry Truman. Louisiana would get all of the royalty income for the first three miles off our coast, and then split everything else over the next ten miles 50-50 with the feds. Earl Long was ready to sign on when Judge Perez stepped in. “To hell with the Feds. We are not going to give them 50%. We want the whole thing!”
Earl Long wasn’t willing to take on the Judge, and besides, it was election year on the national level. Truman wasn’t running, and if the Judge got behind Eisenhower, a much better deal might be struck.
Eisenhower won the election, and carried 93% of the vote in Plaquemines Parish, the highest percentage of any parish or county in the nation. But the new President, according to Perez and the two Louisiana senators, reneged on pre-election commitments and only let the state have possession of land within three miles of the shoreline. The Judge had expected 10 1⁄2 miles southward with a baseline that would be drawn to include all of Louisiana’s many coastal indentations.
Perez opposed the final offer by the feds as his “vested interest” made him greedy, and Louisiana ended up receiving not one penny after a protracted battle all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The failure to take this settlement has cost Louisiana, by several studies, more than $500 billion (that’s billon with a “b”) in lost revenue.
Here’s a simple way to figure it. If Perez had not stopped the original proposition offered by Eisenhower, here’s what would be happening today. There would be no Louisiana income taxes, no sales taxes, no property taxes and few other taxes. In addition, like Alaska, every man, woman and child in Louisiana could possibly expect to receive a substantial yearly check in excess of $3,000 that would continue for the rest of their lives. Simply put, it was the single biggest missed opportunity of any state in the history of our country.
The Trump budget proposals are not a done deal, and will certainly be opposed by the Louisiana congressional delegation. But the history of dealing with the federal government over what should be a major revenue source for the state continues to be an uphill fight. And the Louisiana coast continues to erode and drop off into the Gulf.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.