La. House Committee OKs $5B Construction Budget

Fri May 15, 2009 - Southeast Edition
CEG




BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) A multiyear, $5 billion state construction plan that would spend the state’s surplus and includes Louisiana Superdome renovations for the New Orleans Saints coasted through a House committee on May 7.

The House Ways and Means Committee quickly approved the measure with little discussion and only a few changes and additions.

The proposal heads next to the House Appropriations Committee, which is expected to spend more time publicly discussing it, because that’s the committee that reviews the cash spending — including the Superdome renovations and other state surplus spending plans. The Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hear the bill May 18.

The construction budget bill would spend $753 million in state surplus cash, leaving another $45 million unaccounted for.

The surplus spending plans include $300 million for coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects, $246 million for road and bridge work, $98 million for higher education construction projects and $24 million for port upgrades. Jindal had announced all the proposals except the port projects.

The most contentious slice of surplus spending involves the $85 million in Superdome upgrades, to add suites, widen the concourses and make other improvements designed to generate additional money for the Saints. The renovations are part of a Jindal administration deal that will keep the team in New Orleans through 2025.

The construction budget for the 2009-10 year is called the “capital outlay’’ bill. Many of the projects won’t be funded for several years. Half the construction budget includes road projects and other items that have direct cash lines of funding, but the other half includes projects that will be funded through state borrowing over many years.