Every year as the tax deadline rolls around, we think about what happens to all that money American taxpayers send to Washington. Usually when money goes to Washington, itís a one way trip. It rarely returns to you or your local area in the form of services, but instead gets spent very quickly on things that canít directly benefit Mississippiís cities and counties.
But not always.
This week I was pleased to announce that Mississippians actually will be getting back almost $62 million from Washington Ė money collected in our state that will be making a round trip back to us by way of the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP).
Two years ago, I included language in an energy bill mandating a portion of all oil and gas royalty revenues collected in coastal states be returned to those states.
Six states, including Mississippi, allow oil and gas production off their shores. Our coastal communities help support this industry, and we take the risks associated with it, so itís only fair that these states get something back from Washington.
CIAP funds are available for use in our three coastal counties for any kind of local initiative that protects natural resources or offsets the impact of local energy exploration and production. The funding can be accessed through grant applications to the U.S. Department of Interior.
For fiscal years 2007 and 2008, Mississippi will receive almost $62 million. The State of Mississippi will get about $20 million, while the counties of Jackson, Harrison and Hancock will share about $10 million each year.
I canít emphasize enough that this is funding now available for use in Mississippi that had been sent to Washington, never to return. It gives us new leverage to improve our state at a time when itís most needed, during our ongoing Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.
Just before Easter, I was in Jackson to address a gathering of the Mississippi Nature Conservancy. I said that America has the technology and resources to balance Mississippiís economic growth while preserving the natural resources that generations of Mississippians have enjoyed.
We can have new energy production, both traditional and alternative, and new job opportunities, without sacrificing the natural beauty and bounty with which Mississippi is blessed.
This CIAP program is one way to help us strike that balance.
The State of Mississippi soon will submit a formal state CIAP plan to the Interior Department. When approved, the Department will begin accepting grant applications for actual expenditure of funds sometime in October.
Iím encouraging the state and our three coastal counties to submit any locally-generated requests which can be funded through this program. Rarely does money sent to Washington make a round trip back to us. Letís make sure to use it wisely.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email