Lawmakers Question New Project Spending - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Lawmakers Question New Project Spending

Magic pixie dust, smoke and mirrors. That's what Governor Blanco's financial guru said he needed to make Louisiana's money problems go away. Yet at the governor's request, the State Bond Commission voted Thursday to fund $45 million worth of new state construction projects. What message will that send to Washington?

"You can't forget that you have north Louisiana, you have central Louisiana, and parts of south Louisiana that were not impacted and are up and running," argues Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc.

LeBlanc recommended putting off $45 million worth of projects interrupted by Hurricane Katrina that may now receive federal funding. Instead of holding onto that money, he asked that $45 million in projects elsewhere be rushed ahead. That includes $10 million in economic development projects, like a reservoir in Washington Parish and a technology park in Lafayette; $5 million in water and sewer upgrades; $3 million in flood control; and $2.8 million for the Earl K. Long outpatient clinic in Baton Rouge.

But the shift in construction priorities drew fire from Republicans. They say cutting back only to fund what they see as non-necessities sends the wrong message to Congress.

As Senator Robert Barham put it, "If I had a storm come through and it took my crop, destroyed my tractors, destroyed my shop, the river ran over part of my farm, and I had a little cash money and went out and bought a corvette, I don't think my banker would be smiling at me next year."

But LeBlanc says look more closely at those corvettes, they'll get the state pretty far. "Is it a corvette to say that, prior to the storm, Earl K. Long was crumbling? And today, with a demand that is now tenfold, that somehow that clinic is a luxury?"

Luxury or not, the commission gave the green light. The $45 million in projects that were postponed will be put on a lower-priority list for now. While it funded the new projects, the state is reserving $80 million worth of funding, just in case.

Reporter: Marie Centanni

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