Editorial: Jindal makes hard choices

Most legislators are more concerned with “bringing home the bacon” rather than being fiscally responsible. It is often left

up to the governor to make the hard choices on what state construction projects move forward and which to scuttle.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, to the consternation of many politicians and special interests, has shown he is fairly adept at making

those hard choices when they land on his desk.

The Jindal administration recommended scuttling money for existing projects recently to generate roughly $105 million for

new projects.

The State Bond Commission backed the

shuffling of funds, which frees up dollars for projects such as

revamping a boat launch

on the Amite River, replacing hot water pipes at Southern

University in Baton Rouge and continuing renovations of the community

center in Westwego. Only State Treasurer John Kennedy raised

objections at the meeting, saying the Jindal administration’s

juggling pushed existing projects to the back of the line.

“We’ve started projects that you said

needed ... money in July. Every one of them was shovel ready. Now 90 of

them are shutting

down. Some have spent taxpayer money, and they go to the back of

the line. That’s not managing cashflow to me,” Kennedy complained

during a meeting of the State Bond Commission.

Mark A. Moses, who oversees the

construction budget for the Jindal administration, said the $80 million

in canceled funding

came from projects that were complete and had leftover money or

from projects that stalled. For example, Moses said, work

hasn’t been done on the overlay of Bayou Drive in Assumption

Parish since 2010 because the project needs an additional appropriation

from the Legislature.

The administration recommended that the state also not move forward on:

n $11.6 million to build a new Office of Public Health central laboratory.

n $800,000 to patch, repair and overlay La. 3038 in Gonzales.

n $100,000 to help restore Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans.

n $100,000 to build a bureau for State Police in St. Tammany Parish.

n $70,000 to widen the sidewalk on Stanford Avenue near LSU in Baton Rouge.

Simmesport Mayor Eric John Rusk wrote

the Jindal administration and the bond commission to implore them not to

rescind $390,000

for an evacuation shelter and community center in his Avoyelles

Parish town. “The town is currently under contract to purchase

... the building. This agreement should be executed within the

next 4 months,” Rusk wrote.

The bond commission brushed aside Rusk’s plea and pulled the funding. The $80 million shuffled from ongoing projects was

merged with $25 million in capacity already available for new projects.

Moses said legislators piled more projects into the state construction, or capital outlay, budget than the state can afford.

“For every one dollar we can fund, there’s about $13 we can’t fund,” he said.

Making his first appearance before the

bond commission, Moses said the administration picked projects that

represent the

best investments for Louisiana. He said the Jindal administration

wants to create spaces for the future rather than just repairing

or replacing buildings.

Despite raising objections to the administration’s approach, Kennedy voted in favor of it along with the rest of the bond

commission.

Someone has to make the hard fiscal decisions when there are limited funds, and in this case the governor is doing the right

thing.

 

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.