A commission raising money for the 200th anniversary celebration of Louisiana becoming a state is less than halfway toward its $1.9 million goal.
Julie Vezinot, director of boards and commissions for Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, said $700,000 has been raised through private donations.
The more than year-long commemoration begins in a few weeks with educational programs for schoolchildren on the state’s history.
“The commission wants to raise and spend all private dollars,” Vezinot said.
A state income tax check-off approved by the Louisiana Legislature during the recent session is designed to push more dollars toward the celebration. However, such check-offs rarely draw large amounts of money from taxpayers.
“If I get a dollar, it’s more than what I have right now,” said state Sen. Mike Walsworth, the check-off’s sponsor and a member of the Louisiana Bicentennial Commission.
Lobbyist Randy K. Haynie, the commission’s fundraising chairman, said plenty of time remains to raise money. He said the commission soon will announce five key sponsors and plans to ask 25 “legacy” families to each give $25,000.
“We’re going to pull this celebration and event off for Louisiana,” Haynie said.
Louisiana became a state on April 30, 1812, after the state’s constitution was drawn up in a coffeehouse in New Orleans. A few months later, the War of 1812 started. The war culminated with the legendary Battle of New Orleans.
The statehood celebration is slated to run from Sept. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2012.
Vezinot said the commission wants to begin the celebration early to coincide with the beginning of the school year. She said the state is working on lesson plans to teach students from kindergarten to 12th grade about Louisiana’s history.
The calendar of events includes:
• A gala in March.
• A celebration of the state’s food, music, art and culture on April 28.
• A birthday cake at the State Capitol on April 30.
• An August parade in New Orleans similar to the one that state officials held in 1912 for Louisiana’s 100th birthday.
Also planned are a compilation of Louisiana music, an art history book, a commemorative coin, a traveling exhibit of artifacts and a time capsule.
The commission is in charge of raising money for the celebration.
State money problems are limiting the amount of public dollars for the events.
The Jindal administration directed Dardenne to use money given to the state by BP for marketing the seafood and tourism industry in the wake of last year’s oil leak.
In the weeks leading up to the session, Dardenne pushed for state funds to help pay for the celebration. He said he now is willing to use BP dollars.
Retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, the head of the bicentennial commission, raised the funding issue at the Foundation for Historical Louisiana’s 35th Preservation Awards Banquet in Baton Rouge earlier this month.
Vezinot said he left with more than $250 in cash.
The state income tax check-off proposed by Walsworth allows taxpayers to donate their refunds to the Louisiana Bicentennial Commission and to the Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial Commission.
In the 2009 tax year, state income tax check-offs generated $341,521 in donations for military families, coastal protection, animal welfare and other causes.
Walsworth, R-West Monroe, said he could not ask for state funding when museums, health care and education were being cut. He said a dollar from every taxpayer would help both celebrations.
The checkoff is effective for five years, beginning with the 2011 tax year.
“We’re probably going to have expenses that we might be able to repay,” Walsworth said.