Constitutional amendment would ensure transportation dollars do not go to state police

Updated: Oct. 16, 2018 at 5:45 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A proposed constitutional amendment would prevent state lawmakers from diverting money in the Transportation Trust Fund to Louisiana State Police (LSP) for traffic control purposes.

Between 1991 and 2015, lawmakers shifted nearly $700 million from the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) to LSP. The legislature passed a cap on the amount of money that could be transferred in 2015, and Governor John Bel Edwards informally ended the practice after he took office in 2016.

LSP is already funded using money from the state general fund. The proposed amendment, authored by Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, would make the transfer maneuver illegal.

The TTF is the state’s primary method of funding road and bridge construction and maintenance. There is a $14 billion backlog in transportation projects across Louisiana.

“It isn’t going to cure everything that needs to be done,” DOTD communications director, Rodney Mallett, said. “It won’t address our big backlog, but it’s certainly money that we can apply to infrastructure. Everything we get, we try to put to good use.”

LSP does not comment on pending legislation. Cortez said the legislature “certainly has the ability” to fund state police out of the state general fund.

“The source of their funding, to them, is less relevant than the fact they get funded,” Cortez said. “This amendment simply says if you’re going to fund state police, fund it through the regular pool of state general fund. Don’t divert that money that would otherwise go to transportation projects.”

Cortez says he brought forth the amendment to restore trust in the trust fund. “It would give the citizens and the voters more confidence that the dollars are actually going to road and bridge construction and maintenance and not to another agency,” Cortez said. “Albeit very legal, this transfer confuses the pubic.”

The amendment will be listed fourth on ballots and will read: “Do you support an amendment to remove authority to appropriate or dedicate monies in the Transportation Trust Fund to state police for traffic control purposes?”

When you’re diverting resources, you’re basically fighting against yourself," Cortez said. “When we have a $14 billion backlog in transportation projects, it doesn’t make good sense to divert some of that money."

Early voting begins October 23, and election day is November 6.

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