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News » House stalls construction bill *** BR-area legislators oppose measure


House stalls construction bill *** BR-area legislators oppose measure


House stalls construction bill *** BR-area legislators oppose measure
The House stalled the state's construction borrowing engine Friday amid complaints about Gov. Bobby Jindal's spending proposals.


The House voted 62-24 for House Bill 3 - eight votes shy of the two-thirds or 70 votes needed to advance the measure to the Senate. Nineteen representatives were absent for the vote.

The 24 lawmakers opposing the legislation were mostly Democrats, including many from the Baton Rouge area. However a few Republicans joined the opposition.

Legislators said they want more money for roads, health care, higher education and the elderly.

"There's not enough in there for working class people ... This sends a message to the governor that he doesn't fully control this House," said state Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans.

State Rep. Bodi White, R-Denham Springs, was one of four Republicans who voted against HB3, which lists projects to be financed with state borrowing.

He said he wants additional dollars for Interstates 10 and 12 in the Baton Rouge area.

"This gives, we believe, hopefully, leverage," said state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge and chairwoman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus.

The governor's chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, blamed the outcome on the high absentee rate in the House.

"It will pass next week," Teepell predicted.

Lawmakers have complained about the cuts in Jindal's proposed $27 billion state budget for the spending year that starts July 1.

Because of a $1.3 billion drop in revenue, funding for health care and higher education is being cut. At the same time, the governor wants to use $85 million of a state government surplus to renovate the Louisiana Superdome for the New Orleans Saints Football team.

The Superdome money is in House Bill 2, the $5.4 billion construction budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget contains $3.2 billion in projects to be financed with cash, some of it the surplus money, and $2.2 billion in projects to be financed with borrowing.

The House approved HB2 on a 90-3 vote, but balked when the companion HB3 came up; it is needed to do the borrowing called for in HB2.

Friday's blockade mirrored a move that now House Speaker Jim Tucker made two years ago when Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco was in office.

Tucker, R-Terrytown, led efforts to block HB3 because of a disagreement with the Blanco administration over tax breaks and spending. Joining him in his defiant stance was state Rep. Hunter Greene, who now is the sponsor of HB3.

"Everybody needs to sit down and talk," Greene, R-Baton Rouge, said Friday.

State Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, joked that the vote should free up positions on key money committees, referring to committee members who voted against the legislation

"(There are) eight potential openings on the money committees, and I'm applying," Downs said.

Earlier in the day, Greene successfully fought attempts to amend HB2, the construction budget, to eliminate money for the Superdome and reduce funding for coastal restoration.

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, wanted to spend $35 million to widen Interstate 12 in Livingston Parish.

He proposed taking money from $300 million allotted for coastal restoration projects and using it for roads.

Lawmakers from coastal Louisiana bristled at the proposal.

"I'm still not in my home. I ran for this office from a FEMA trailer," said state Rep. Reed Henderson, D-Chalmette.

Henderson noted the $300 million, which is coming from a state surplus, would be used to attract federal dollars.

State Rep. Ernest Wooton, R-Belle Chasse, said money for roads is needed.

"Anyone been to Venice lately?" he asked.

However, Wooton said coastal restoration also is needed.

The House rejected the amendment with 17 members voting for it and 65 voting against it.

Lawmakers also shot down a proposal to scuttle the $85 million for Superdome renovations.

State Rep. Jerry "Truck" Gisclair, D-Larose, wanted to use the money for local governments, roads and bridges.

He said Saints owner Tom Benson does not need the state to renovate the Superdome, noting that Benson bought a television station and a yacht.

"We have given him everything he's wanted," Gisclair said. "But I want my $85 million to go to our elderly and to the rest of Louisiana."

Greene said the Saints do benefit the state, even if they're not popular statewide.

The amendment failed.

HB2 easily cleared the House. The sticking point was HB3.

VOTING FOR HB3 (62): Tucker, Anders, Aubert, A. Badon, B. Badon, Baldone, Barras, Billiot, Brossett, Burford, H. Burns, T. Burns, Carmody, Champagne, Chaney, Connick, Cortez, Danahay, Dove, Downs, Ellington, Ernst, Fannin, Gisclair, Greene, M. Guillory, Guinn, Harrison, Hazel, Hill, Hines, Hoffmann, Howard, Hutter, G. Jackson, Johnson, Katz, Kleckley, Landry, Leger, Ligi, Little, McVea, Mills, Monica, Morris, Nowlin, Pearson, Perry, Ponti, Pugh, Ritchie, Robideaux, Schroder, Simon, Smiley, G. Smith, J. Smith, Talbot, Waddell, Willmott and Wooton.

VOTING AGAINST HB3 (24): Armes, Barrow, Burrell, Dixon, Edwards, Franklin, Hardy, Henderson, Honey, R. Jones, S. Jones, LaFonta, Lambert, LeBas, Montoucet, Pope, Richard, Richardson, Roy, P. Smith, Stiaes, Thibaut, White and Williams.

NOT VOTING (19): Abramson, Arnold, Carter, Chandler, Cromer, Doerge, Foil, Gallot, Geymann, E. Guillory, Henry, M. Jackson, LaBruzzo, Lopinto, Norton, Peterson, Richmond, St. Germain and Templet.

Capital outlay budget

What's in the capital outlay budget using surplus funds:

* $300 million for coastal restoration

* $246 million for roads and bridges

* $98.4 million for higher education projects

* $85 million to renovate the Superdome

The House rejected shaking up the construction budget to spend:

?

* $30 million for local governments

* $55 million on roads and bridges

* $35 million to widen Interstate 12 in Livingston Parish

* $7 million on the Pecue Interchange in East Baton Rouge Parish.

* An additional $60 million on Interstate 49 North



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 17, 2009

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