Delegates want funds restored
LAFAYETTE — Three Acadiana legislators took Gov. Bobby Jindal to task Thursday for striking $100,000 from the state budget for a Lafayette-based agency that promotes French language and culture.
“Today, we are being humiliated and punished for being who we are and what we stand for by a governor who has no interest in our culture,” said state Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley.
State Reps. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, and Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro, joined Montoucet on Thursday at the Vermilionville living history museum in Lafayette to support the restoration of funding for the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, or CODOFIL.
The three legislators have been vocal supporters of Cajun and Creole culture.
“That $100,000 was an investment in our people, our culture, our identity and our economy,” Ortego said.
The budget veto represents more than a third of the $257,000 annual operating budget for CODOFIL, which oversees a number of programs to nurture the French language and to promote cultural and business ties with other French-speaking countries.
CODOFIL began in 1968 amid a resurgence of interest in preserving French culture in Louisiana, and the group has been actively involved in helping develop French-language immersion programs in the public school system.
The $100,000 that was vetoed was used mainly for recruiting and training French teachers, CODOFIL Executive Director Joseph Dunn said.
“It was a big blow,” Dunn said of the veto.
He said CODOFIL will survive but will now need to reach out to private donors to fill the budget gap.
Ortego likened Jindal’s veto to a “slap in the face” of the state’s Cajuns, Creoles and other French-speaking residents.
“To have our governor cut this program is cutting our home,” Pierre said.
Ortego said the $100,000 is a tiny part of the state’s overall budget but helps fund critical resources for keeping alive a French culture that is among the main tourism draws for the state.
Jindal wrote in his veto message that CODOFIL was “adequately funded.”
The governor’s office declined to offer further comment Thursday.
The veto was one of several announced last week.
The only option to overturn any veto is for the Legislature to reconvene and for two-thirds of both houses to vote to override Jindal — a prospect that legislators have said is unlikely.
Ortego, Montoucet and Pierre said they will work to restore funding in future years and are holding out hope that private donors can step in to support CODOFIL.
“Remember, it’s only $100,000, and I know we have more than 100,000 Cajuns in this part of the state,” Montoucet said.