BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana House passed, 96-4, House Bill 2, the state’s comprehensive capital outlay budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, but Democrats held hostage the key companion funding bill Wednesday night.
However, House Bill 3, the instrument authorizing the borrowing for state and local government construction projects through bond sales to pay for HB 2, failed 56-40, falling short of the two-thirds majority required of revenue measures. It will come up for reconsideration, probably next week.
Democrats united to defeat the bill in order to have a bargaining chip with House conservatives in reprioritizing House Bill 1, the primary funding bill, which saw heavy cuts to health care funding.
Sponsored by Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, HB2’s capital outlay projects collectively total
$935 million. Abramson said about $500 million worth of projects in cash lines of credit were moved back to Priority 5, the lowest priority level of funding, and would not get attention for several years.
In Webster Parish, projects include:
Cotton Valley requesting $1.26 million in Priority 1 funds for sewerage system improvements
Minden requesting $145,100 in Priority 1 funds and $686,300 in Priority 5 funds for a potable water ground storage tank
Cullen requesting $80,000 in Priority 5 funds for potable water and distribution improvements
Doyline requesting $45,000 in Priority 1 funds and $370,000 in priority funds
Webster Parish Police Jury requesting $205,600 in Priority 1 funds for courthouse HVAC renovations
Sibley requesting $303,800 in Priority 1 funds for wastewater treatment facilities improvements
nHorseshoe Water System for $15,900 in Priority 1 funds for planning and construction.
A few floor amendments to proposed projects were also adopted. Abramson’s amendment, which he said constitutes less than $2 million in changes, shuffles funding priority levels and adds 12 projects to the budget plan.
“That’s my overall goal, is to make sure that the entire budget is financially feasible,” Abramson said.
Another amendment by Rep. Jerry Gisclair, D-Larose, exempts the Lockport Street Improvement project from local match requirements. One by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, adds a $950,000 project involving emergency repairs to Lake Valve and Spillway at Whispering Pines, a Girl Scout camp in Tangipahoa.
help negotiate “a better budget deal” within the House. The Bond Act would authorize the sale of bonds necessary to fund the projects in the capital outlay budget, which House Democrats labeled “pet projects.”
Despite Abramson’s warning that these projects could not be implemented without the Bond Act, Democratic Caucus chair Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, and Rep. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans, jointly said in a statement:
“Today, we are saying that until the Republican majority in the House agrees to our terms to prioritize the people of this state, we will not approve the bill needed to fund their pet projects back home.”