Gulf Coast State Affiliates Eye Spill’s Economic Spread

By Cynthia McCabe

NEW ORLEANS – Gulf Coast hotel and restaurant owners nervously eyeing bookings for this July 4 holiday weekend aren’t the only ones concerned about the economic impact of the BP oil spill. So too are education officials in the Gulf states.

Significant declines in the region’s $20 billion tourism industry – and the tax revenue that tourists bring – mean that education funding will be at risk in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.

The Alabama Education Association is supporting their state superintendent’s declaration that BP must reimburse education revenue lost due to the oil spill’s impact. As the oil continues to pour out of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP, money is also pouring out of the state’s Education Trust Fund – which relies on state income and sales tax, officials said.

AEA economists predict that the BP disaster will cost Alabama schools tens of millions of dollars, echoing the effect felt in the state’s tourism and seafood industry. Tourism comprises a significant portion of the revenue in the Gulf states, and with summer travelers wondering whether the swimming and seashell collecting there will mean exposure to oil and tar, that tourism is very much in doubt right now.

“They must pay every dime that is owed,” AEA President Dr. Paul Hubbert said. State Superintendent Joe Morton “has done the right thing in signaling to BP that they will be responsible for making sure Alabama classrooms are protected, just like they are responsible for the coastline and the people on it. We stand ready to help him in any way possible.”

Economic and taxation experts employed by AEA are regularly called upon by the state legislature to highlight unfair corporate tax loopholes and calculate costs associated with economic development proposals.

Education association officials in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi said they are exploring the need for reimbursement due to the oil spill, but their states have not taking any official action yet.

“We’re certainly going to have loss in tourism revenue,” Florida Education Association spokesman Mark Pudlow said.

Learn more about how educators are working with their students to help in the Gulf on RA Today and get links for volunteering to help in the crisis.

Photo: NASA