BATON ROUGE, LA (KPLC) - The Board of Regents supported a proposal on Wednesday to be sponsored by New Orleans Rep. Walt Leger that targets money Louisiana is expected to receive from BP to pay for economic damage caused by the massive 2010 spill, but State Treasurer John Kennedy thinks the money should be used towards rebuilding the coast.
"The money from the BP litigation that's dedicated to coastal restoration should remain dedicated to coastal restoration," said Kennedy. "The economic damages' portion of the BP settlement has never been dedicated, and that's what the legislation deals with.”
Lawmakers already have set aside the first $1 billion in economic damages money. Leger's bill would target oil spill money above that, place it into a fund and spend the interest earnings on colleges.
"What we've done to higher education is a disgrace," said Kennedy. "We now lead the country in the reduction of public support to higher education. Over the past 5 years, we've cut $700 million to our universities, yet we say its a priority. If it's a priority, that's what you fund first. We've raided every pot of money that we've got. About all that's left is this money that we've set aside and more that'll be coming in for coastal restoration."
Though it's unclear how much the state will be getting, Kennedy said as they they continue to litigate with BP, sooner or later, they'll win or they'll settle.
"Once we get that money, we don't need to waste it. We do not need to waste it," he said.
The money wouldn't help colleges avoid cuts next year, but it could give campuses a stable stream of funding in future years. Lawmakers will consider the proposal in the upcoming legislative session that begins April 13.