Our Views: Not just any fund

One of the chronic problems of the state budget has been dedication of money for various purposes. All too often, the money tends to pile up in funds dedicated to fighting the boll weevil, or some such goal; when it’s not a bad year for the boll weevil, the money can sit in the fund, and governor and Legislature have had that much less money to spend on other priorities.

Of which, we believe, there are many going short of cash.

What has happened lately is that the Legislature is constantly “sweeping” spare cash from other funds, or swapping one-time money for specific purposes instead of the recurring revenues of the general fund. That leads “laundering” one-time cash into the operating budget. It’s a terribly convoluted and unconservative approach to budgeting.

Some funds are constitutional in nature, so that money cannot be “swept” with a simple bill. But they can be used to “launder” money — circumventing the Louisiana Constitution’s requirements.

While it may not be different from many others in the budgetary shell game, one fund we think deserves some more restrictions on its use, rather than less.

That is why we support a bill by Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, to ban maneuvers to “launder” money through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund.

So far, the coastal fund hasn’t lost any money because of sneaky budget maneuvers. Its revenues are replaced with one-time money so the fund’s balance remains the same. As a budgetary sin, it is not mortal, but for legislators in the coastal zone, it’s different with this fund.

The amount of future work to preserve and restore Louisiana’s coast is immense and costly. Because of that, the voters have dedicated new offshore revenues to the coastal fund, by constitutional amendment.

It’s an important pledge to the U.S. government and future Congresses, where we’ll be seeking support for coastal preservation, that the money will be spent properly. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who played a major role in pushing for federal dedication of oil spill revenues to the Gulf Coast, backs Geymann’s bill.

The Geymann legislation is something that Louisiana’s delegation in the U.S. Congress needs as the members pursue more funding for the coastal projects needed throughout southern Louisiana. It won’t crimp the style of this or future administrations very much, and it will send a good message about our fidelity to the proper use of federal coastal funds.