House Speaker Chuck Kleckley. (Donna Price / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, July 06, 2012 7:11 PM
If the best that Calcasieu schools could have done with $1 million from the state was to build a “synthetic grass” football field and enhance other athletic facilities at Barbe High School, then House Speaker Chuck Kleckley was right to drop his request for the funds. Louisiana should be careful with its money.
Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said he had talked with Barbe High coaches before asking for the state money, largely for the new field, and had made efforts to put the money into the capital outlay budget. But some local officials expressed grave misgivings last week about spending such money on high school sports -- especially while the state is slashing university budgets, laying off teachers and considering draconian cuts to health care.
District 6 School Board member and former Barbe principal Bill Jongbloed said he could not have asked “in good conscience” for state funds for sports while the state is in dire financial need for more important things. School Board President R.L. Webb had scheduled a vote Tuesday on whether the board even wanted to accept the funding if it were to be used for sports. Such misgivings prompted Kleckley to notify the school board that he was ending his effort for the funds, making the vote meaningless.
Kleckley’s response indicated he was miffed by the harsh reaction to the football field project. In an email, Kleckley said, “Each year legislators have an opportunity to include local projects for their district in the capital outlay bill. ... For years I have heard people complain that we have not received our share of funding in SWLA for similar projects.” In that, Kleckley may right.
But Bobby Jindal’s ascent to the governorship was supposed to mark an end to such cavalier funding for government insiders and their pet projects. Budgets were supposed to be built on the merit of projects, not on whether or not the lawmaker requesting the money was favored by the administration.
Part of the state’s budget woes can be traced to our history of undisciplined spending. We’ve been unable to make the hard but wise choices. And we should be honest with ourselves: Allocating money on sports facilities where there’s talk of closing hospices in Louisiana should trouble everybody’s good conscience.
Does Southwest Louisiana fall short when it comes to state funding for pet projects? Perhaps. If we’re short on such handouts, let’s be long on wisdom. End such spending everywhere, don’t keep such ill-advised practices going. The needs of the state -- highways, health care, education, prisons -- should carry more weight than the wants of government insiders.
The state finds itself in a deep budget hole. For the good of all, stop digging.
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, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.
Posted By: Dwight On: 7/8/2012
Title: Do we expect things to change?
I'll would not be surprised if the American Press could go back to in its editorial files from 20, 30 even 50 years ago and find editorials with the same theme. Mr. Jindal is paying back his supporters for gutting teacher tenure, the universities and the state health system. It's the same old system except with the republicans in charge.