Bloated construction budget OK’d

Gov. Bobby Jindal will have some big decisions to make when he receives the state construction budget from legislators.

The Louisiana House voted 81-20 Monday in favor of House Bill 2, the capital outlay plan for the fiscal year that starts in July. The plan is overcommitted by $388 million. The Senate still has to agree to the compromise.

When the budget is bloated with building projects, the governor ultimately decides what receives funding.

The House and the Senate spent the last days of the legislative session haggling over HB2. They left it until the final day of session to announce a compromise.

At issue was how overcommitted the construction budget should be.

When HB2 left the House, it was only overcommitted by roughly $13 million. The Senate piled in projects, overcommitting the budget by more than $400 million. Half a dozen legislators worked out a compromise that freed up $23 million by decreasing funding for statewide roofing and economic development projects.

“It’s certainly not in the condition in which it left the House. I wish it was. But after several meetings I realized we have to push it forward,” said state Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Robideaux is the legislative sponsor of the state construction budget.

State Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, said it seems like a little more whittling could have been done. “We couldn’t reduce their $400 million a little more?” he asked.

Robideaux said he tried and failed.

“The Senate must have the same old man over there that sold Jack the beanstalk beans,” James retorted.

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