Saturday, February 5, 2011

Haynesville shale: Louisiana can make better choices!

It's a story that was predicted by the Better Choices for a Better Louisiana Coalition: our state is missing out on many millions of dollars because of ill-conceived tax breaks granted to drillers profiting from the Haynesville shale bonanza.

In today's Advocate, reporter Ted Griggs exposes the near-scandalous fact that one of the richest gas finds in history will contribute almost nothing to a state that is facing a $1.6 billion shortfall in the coming legislative session.

Health care is going to suffer. Higher education will continue to lose professors, degree programs and research facilities. Roads and bridges will keep on crumbling. K-12 funding will suffer, and teachers will be fired (St. Martin Parish just announced that it is losing one teacher in each of its schools).

As Griggs reports, there are more than 800 wells in production in North Louisiana's Haynesville find, and most of them will contribute not one penny of severance taxes to the state.

Why? Because they are subject to a tax exemption for two years, and most of these short-lived wells play out within 18 months. There are huge profits for energy companies, but nothing for the state which is surrendering its mineral wealth.

Haynesville is just one example of hundreds of tax loopholes that cost the state more than $7 billion a year - almost as much as is collected for the state's general fund. While some tax breaks may benefit the people of Louisiana, others, like Haynesville, cost us dearly.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers has been involved in this issue for months. In November, we participated with other Better Choices Coalition members in a press conference on the steps of the capitol, asking lawmakers to take a hard look at tax exemptions.

Later that month, at a convention themed Better Choices for a Better Louisiana, experts from the Louisiana Budget Project and LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication explained how Louisiana got into this mess, and what can be done about it.

We know we can do better. We know we can make better choices. Please visit the Better Choices for a Better Louisiana Coalition Web site to learn more.

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