BP spill windfall will test Texas conservatives
But Daniel Rothschild, a senior fellow at the free market R Street Institute, says huge sums of money in the hands of greedy and irresponsible politicians can come back to burden taxpayers, and Texas needs to make sure that doesn’t happen.
First, he says officials have to avoid the urge to create new bureaucracies which will have to be funded by taxpayers after the oil spill money is gone.
“Using this to do what some have suggested to create ‘green jobs’ corps and civilian conservation corps, that is going to have long term serious ramifications for the state,” he said. “It means more people on the government payroll, and in the future taxes are going to go up to continue to pay for it.”
He points out that last windfall of this nature Texas received was the settlement of the tobacco lawsuit back in the late 1990s. That money was so mishandled that little if any went to smoking cessation programs like it was supposed to, and then Attorney General Dan Morales went to prison for directing millions of dollars from the fund to political cronies and plugged-in hangers on.
The BP money, under the RESTORE Act, is supposed to be used to fund projects to development environmental and economic programs along the Texas Gulf Coast, but he says in today’s political climate, a new courthouse in Lubbock could conceivably qualify.
“If you’re an attorney and an accountant and you can’t drive whatever special project you want through the loopholes that are in the statutory language, then you’re not very good at your job,” Rothschild said.
He is calling for full transparence, no ‘no bid’ contracts, and open public input on how the money will be used. He says since conservatives control the Texas political process, the use of the BP money will stand as an example of how responsible, or how irresponsible, conservatives are when handling the public’s money.
“When you get the kind of windfall and relatively unrestricted spending, can you put forward the kid of programs that do in fact have positive and powerful economic benefits for your state,” Rothschild said. “The whole country will be watching.”