$77M Stripped From LA Construction Budget

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards stripped $77 million in proposed projects from Louisiana's state construction budget, saying the state can't afford all the items lawmakers packed into the bill.

         Edwards used his line-item veto authority to remove 36 projects around the state from the $3.8 billion, multiyear construction budget passed in the final hours of a special legislative session that ended two weeks ago.

         The veto message was posted on the Legislature's website Friday.

         The state is limited in how much money it can borrow through bond sales annually, and the construction budget is stuffed with more projects than Louisiana can afford, meaning the projects will be in the pipeline for years and some may never get financing.

         Edwards said lawmakers added $115 million in additional items in line for construction borrowing above what his administration proposed, worsening the gap between the dollars available and the road projects, building repairs and other items jockeying to receive financing.

         "In an effort to establish realistic expectations given the state's limited bond capacity, I have vetoed items from this bill totaling ($77M)," Edwards wrote in his veto letter.

         However, even with the governor's vetoes, the state still won't be able to advance all the remaining projects in the budget bill. The Edwards' administration will choose which ones are advanced to the State Bond Commission for financing in the budget year that begins Saturday.

         Projects struck from the bill include millions of dollars in roadwork and drainage improvements proposed for Ascension, Caldwell, Jefferson, Iberia, Lafayette, Livingston, Ouachita, Vermilion, Vernon and Winn parishes.

         More than $12 million proposed for a neighborhood clinic and urgent care center in Baton Rouge was removed. A levee upgrade in St. Tammany Parish, sewer system improvements in Acadia Parish and a police and fire building in Livingston Parish were stripped, along with dollars for a boat launch in St. Landry Parish and a municipal complex in St. Martin Parish.

         A golf course development in Calcasieu Parish won't be getting $2.1 million from the state, and a Rapides Parish industrial park will no longer be in line for $10.8 million in state financing.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte


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