The state Senate advanced a $2.7 billion state construction budget Monday stuffed with more projects than the state can afford.
The Jindal administration would decide which projects move forward.
The Senate voted 35-1 in favor of sending House Bill 2, the construction project, to the House for concurrence, or agreement, on the changes.
“I’m not at all happy with the bill,” state Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, told the Senate. “What started out as a cucumber now looks like a watermelon.”
Marionneaux handled the legislation on the Senate floor.
State Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge and the bill’s sponsor, watched the debate from the state Senate chamber side gallery.
Greene said afterward that he wants to study the changes.
“I think the House has been pretty clear,” Greene said. “We haven’t over appropriated.”
The state construction, also called capital outlay, budget is the spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Over five years, the projects in the bill are expected to cost the state more than $6 billion.
Marionneaux warned legislators not to go home and tell their mayors and parish presidents that they have money for construction projects. He said the final determination on what gets funded will not be made until the State Bond Commission votes on a list submitted by the Jindal administration to borrow money for projects.
Legislators lined up to add projects in their districts to the bill. They quickly withdrew their amendments once they realized that Marionneaux had added the projects for them in a sweeping, 25-page set of amendments.
Construction projects typically are funded over several years.
New funding added to the budget for area projects includes:
--$850,000 for waterproofing and other repairs at the Old Governor’s Mansion.
--$845,000 for environmental control systems at the Old State Capitol.
--$775,000 for heating and air conditioning system upgrades at the State Archives.
--$1 million for the Essen Lane interchange.
--$1 million for LSU’s French House renovation.
--$1.4 million to acquire land for a research park near LSU’s south campus.
--$250,000 for an airport aviation business park at Baton Rouge Metro Airport.
--$50,000 for the Metro Aire Shopping Center in Baton Rouge.
--$100,000 for the Odell S. Williams Now and Then Museum of African-American History.
The only skirmish in the debate on the bill was over a performing arts center in Jefferson Parish.
Marionneaux purged $3.6 million in funding for the project from the bill.
State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, tried to add back the funding.
Marionneaux objected, saying the project started out as a $28 million application and swelled into more than $52 million in state and local funding.
“I don’t want my name on it,” he said. “I think this project … ought to be run out of the state of Louisiana.”
Marionneaux said the state legislative auditor should take a close look at the project.
Appel said the project began prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Costs grew, he said, because of safety and fire code issues as well as design problems.
The amendment failed with 13 senators voting for it and 23 voting against it.
The only person to vote against the bill itself was state Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie. Quinn unsuccessfully fought to restore funding for the performing arts center.