With little discussion, a Louisiana House panel Tuesday advanced a state construction budget that contains more projects than the state can afford.
The House Committee on Ways and Means added $32 million in projects to House Bill 2, the $3.9 billion multi-year construction budget. Initial year project funding is in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The additions include:
- $1.7 million for an addition and upgrades, including replacing the roof, at Southern University Laboratory School.
- $140,000 to reopen the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging’s kitchen.
- $130,000 for a Harding Field World War II Commemorative project at Baton Rouge Metro Airport.
Legislators also added the renovation of the Junior League of Greater New Orleans headquarters and the construction of a St. Tammany Parish fishing pier to the list of projects clamoring for funding from the state.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Joel Robideaux, said the state construction budget is at least $40 million out of balance when it comes to the borrowing available to fund projects in the next budget year.
Robideaux, R-Lafayette, said he will try to limit further amendments to the legislation on the House floor. He said he could not predict how many projects the state Senate will add to the bill.
“It will probably get more over-appropriated,” Robideaux said.
After the committee meeting, state Sen. Neil Riser, who will handle the bill in the Senate, said he wants to see how the legislation looks when it reaches his chamber before committing to limiting additional amendments.
“At this point and time, I’m waiting to see how it comes over from the House,” said Riser, R-Columbia.
The construction, or capital outlay, budget funds projects across the state. The projects are funded over several years with a priority list determining when dollars are received. The Jindal administration ultimately decides which projects move forward when the budget is over-appropriated.
The House Committee on Ways and Means spent less than five minutes on the legislation before voting without objection to send it to the House floor.
Political leaders, including Mayor-President Kip Holden, packed a State Capitol meeting room for the committee’s short agenda. The construction budget, which funds projects across the state, was not the draw. Instead, Holden and other mayors flocked to the State Capitol for legislation that aims to exempt drugs administered in a doctor’s office from local sales tax.
The committee adopted nearly two dozen pages of amendments to HB2 without debate.
Robideaux, the bill’s sponsor and the committee’s chairman, fended off an effort to add even more spending to the proposal.
State Rep. Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport, flirted with adding money for the Louisiana Association for the Blind Manufacturing Corp.
Williams withdrew his amendment at Robideaux’s request.
After the meeting, Robideaux said all but $10 million of the $32 million in added projects were requested by the Jindal administration.
Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, the governor’s chief budget aide, said the construction budget was over-appropriated by $16 million before the committee’s additions.
Rainwater said a little bit of overage is ideal because some projects could end up not needing funding, allowing other projects to move forward.
“We’ll have to go back and recalculate,” Rainwater said after watching the committee amend the bill.