Worried the Obama administration won’t do enough to spur the economic rejuvenation of the Gulf region, a new organization of state and local officials and businessmen is seeking to have federal funds that might be spent elsewhere redirected to states suffering from the oil spill and a series of hurricanes.
The group, called the Ready 4 Takeoff Coalition, consists of representatives from four states – Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The states have been devastated over the past five years by hurricanes Katrina, Ivan, and Rita, and by what the coalition refers to as “the epic manmade oil spill.”
The fear of coalition members – some of them anyway – is that political considerations may dampen the administration’s interest in aiding the region. Three of the states – Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana – voted overwhelmingly against President Obama in 2008, and he’s unlikely to win any of them if he runs for re-election in 2012. Obama won Florida, but trailed in the Panhandle, where the economy has been damaged the most.
At the least, the coalition is prepared to press the administration to follow through on any promises of aid made by the president. He is expected to deliver a speech in New Orleans on the fifth anniversary of Katrina in late August.
The coalition is to be officially announced on August 26 at an event in New Orleans. Its aim is not to generate new federal spending. Rather, it wants previously authorized federal funds to be spent in the Gulf region.
In listing its “goals and objectives,” the group said the four states should be empowered “to harness existing federal projects [and] funds that are available and already in the pipeline.” The aid “will not require substantial new government spending or the creation of new federal programs.”
Among the coalition’s specific proposals is one to boost the Gulf fishing industry. “The buying power of the federal government for the military, schools, and other bulk purchases can immediately consume the supply of seafood products available and will insure that the industry can continue to…harvest quality and healthy food from the Gulf of Mexico and inland waterways,” according to the coalition’s organizers.
Another proposal: give the $40 billion project to build the KC-45 Real Tanker to EADS North America, which would manufacture the planes in Mobile, Alabama. The Defense Department is scheduled to announce the winner of the project sometime after the election in November.
Also, the coalition said the U.S. High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program should give one of its grants to the region. Alabama and Mississippi are seeking grants that, the group said, “could go a long way in helping to attract new business and tourism to the area.”