U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., held an open house Wednesday at his headquarters in Lake Charles. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 10:03 AM
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., told area business leaders Wednesday that he’s working across party lines in the Senate to free up dredging monies for Southwest Louisiana — an area he calls “the most active part of the state” in terms of economic development.
He explained to members of the Chamber Southwest Louisiana how upcoming federal legislation, if passed, may affect commerce in the region. Vitter is on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which is headed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
“I have an interesting working relationship with (Boxer), one of the most liberal members of the Senate,” Vitter said. “We have been dubbed the new odd couple of the U.S. Senate.”
The two have been working across party lines on their first bill — a reworked version of the Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA. It received unanimous bipartisan support in committee and was recommended for Senate approval last week. The bill, if approved, would change the operations of the Army of Corps of Engineers and how it manages projects.
He also said the bill would cultivate job creation in Southwest Louisiana by fixing problems with the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and bringing dredging monies to the state’s ports, channels and waterways.
He said the flow of money out of the trust fund has been a “perennial problem” that leaves dredging efforts drastically underfunded.
“This is particularly frustrating when industry contributes revenue directly to this so-called trust fund, but only about half of that money is spent on its intended purpose,” he said.
“The other half — in an era of deficit spending — is essentially stolen and used for unrelated programs. That has to stop because that tax on industry was passed for a dedicated purpose.”
He said the WRDA bill contains reforms that would ensure the money coming into the trust fund is spent on things like dredging, which would be “very critical for this area.”
On environmental regulations, he said, Vitter and Boxer do not see eye to eye as they do on infrastructure issues. “We basically don’t agree on anything,” he said.
Vitter said the Environmental Protection Agency is “choking important business and commerce activity” and that the EPA should not “hinder natural gas production by enforcing unwarranted regulations on hydraulic fracturing.”
“That’s a huge threat to everything good that’s on the horizon here in Southwest Louisiana,” he said. “And it’s a big threat to the national economy.”
Also Wednesday, Vitter met with residents 8:45-9:45 a.m. at his local office at 949 Ryan St., Suite E.