Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed a new capital outlay bill calling for almost $1.5 billion in construction and infrastructure spending.
Edwards line-item vetoed six projects totaling about $18.5 million.
House Bill 2, the state construction bill, often has been stuffed with far more projects than the state’s borrowing capacity could afford. Edwards and Rep. Neil Abramson, the House Ways and Means chairman who carried House Bill 2, say lawmakers have worked in recent years to put together a more realistic package.
Spending priorities in House Bill 2 highlighted by the governor include:
• More than $300 million for the Department of Transportation and Development.
• Almost $30 million for airport infrastructure improvements.
• $94 million for construction of roads and bridges.
• Almost $40 million for water infrastructure projects.
• $31 million in sewer and wastewater improvements.
• $246 million for education construction projects.
• $53 million for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
In a letter to state House Speaker Taylor Barras and Senate President John Alario, Edwards says his proposed capital outlay budget recommended $767 million in Priority 1 general obligation bond appropriations and $128 million in Priority 2. All of the projects could have received funding while leaving $30 million in remaining bond capacity for the fiscal year that began Monday, he said.
But the Priority 1 and 2 spending called for in the version of House Bill 2 passed by the legislature exceeds the state’s borrowing capacity for the current fiscal year by $235 million, Edwards says. Not only does legislators’ capital outlay budget contain appropriations that are not possible this year, it increases spending in out years by more than 30 percent, he says.
Edwards used his line-item veto to strike six projects from the bill:
• $13.6 million for science building renovations at LSU-Eunice.
• $3.1 million for a multi-purpose pavilion for Bucktown Harbor.
• $520,000 for outdoor lighting at a multipurpose venue at Bossier Community College.
• $520,000 for infrastructure improvements for Acadia Parish Public Works Complex.
• $250,000 for construction of new pavilions at South Bossier Park.
• $500,000 for kitchen repairs for Acadia Center at LSU-Eunice.
The Democratic governor faced harsh criticism last year for vetoes of capital projects that critics said targeted mostly Republican districts. The Edwards administration did not immediately respond to questions about spending cut from House Bill 2 and about how the projects were selected.