MS could lose millions if federal budget passes Congress

MS could lose millions if federal budget passes Congress

MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - Mississippi and three other Gulf Coast states stand to lose millions of dollars if President Trump's proposed budget passes Congress.

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act or GOMESA gives Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas a portion of the money the federal government makes on leases to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling.

Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, said Gulf Coast states receive the money because of environmental risks.

"We bear more of the risk of offshore oil spills, like the Deepwater Horizon Spill," he said. "It's not sort of some fictitious, pie in the sky threat. It actually happened, and it actually happened very recently."

Fillingane said the GOMESA helps states offset that risk, but President Trump's new budget proposes ending that program. Mississippi has received more than $9 million since 2009 and was set to receive more starting in 2018.

"Not only would we lose the $9 million that we've already been getting, it would probably be closer to maybe $50 or $100 million that the state would stand to lose," Fillingane said.

Fillingane said the state and the Pine Belt have already felt the effects of offshore job loss and lower severance tax collections from energy companies because of dropping oil prices. The state is also dealing with a budget shortfall, and while Fillingane said revenue collections in March and April exceeded budget estimates, losing GOMESA funding would compound the problem.

"It makes things even that much more difficult," he said.

Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Mississippi, sits on the House Appropriations Committee, and said he is pleased with the increase in military funding in the budget. However, he knows changes are likely, since Congress has the final say.

"This budget lays out the President's priorities for our country," Palazzo said. "At the end of the day it is merely a blueprint, and ultimately the power of the purse still lies with Congress.  Of course from state to state and district to district, priorities in the budget details tend to differ.  As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have a unique opportunity to play a significant role in the actual process of allocating federal funds.   As we make responsible, sound decisions regarding federal dollars I will continue to make a strong case for our South Mississippi priorities."

Present Obama also proposed cutting the program several years ago, and Congress blocked that attempt.

"I think this is an issue that you will see will cut across party lines," Fillingane said. "We don't care if it's a Republican administration, like the current one, proposing this or the former democratic administration that proposed it before. They don't see the need for it based on the fact that they don't live here."

Fillingane said he understands the need to reduce the federal deficit, but says these dollars are needed along the Gulf Coast and are being spent wisely.