Our Views: An end run on borrowing

One of the hardest things to get across in government is the necessity of following the rules. It does not help when veterans of the political process express contempt for the rules, the latest case involving constitutional rules intended to limit state borrowing.

“Every time someone tries to do something that is good, they get afraid,” said Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, when he pushed a bill to do something good — expand the state’s technical college system. But Adley misinterprets the opposition of other college boards to the proposal by the community college system: “They’re only trying to protect their turf.”

The Board of Regents in charge of higher education differs, and if it could speak, the Louisiana Constitution would too.

The community college board wants the state to borrow, via Adley’s bill, more than $200 million for buildings and equipment related to workforce training.

That skips the rules: The constitution intends the Regents to prepare an overall higher education construction budget, and the other boards — three more, for LSU, Southern and other four-year campuses — are rightly upset at this end-run around the process by the community colleges.

The Senate passed the Adley bill 30-6. We hope that the House will reconsider the issue in light of the constitution’s clear intent to avoid this kind of end-run.

If each college system can go directly to the Legislature for a huge building authorization, how does the state limit its levels of borrowing?

The community college system chafes at the huge backlog of projects in the whole system — meaning that they would wait for the buildings for a while, even those needed to train people for job opportunities in the next few years. Because the Legislature and Gov. Bobby Jindal have cut support for higher education, scarcity is the real root of this conflict among the boards.