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As House Speaker Rep. Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, watches, second from right, Senate President Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego, right, introduces statewide elected officials, from left, Treasurer John Schroder; Attorney General Jeff Landry; and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser at the start of the joint session as the 2018 Regular Legislative Session begins Monday March 12, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is opposing legislation being pushed by Treasurer John Schroder that would create a fund for unclaimed property aimed at helping localities pay for infrastructure projects. 

Schroder blamed the failure of one of the pieces of legislation of the effort on the House floor Thursday on the governor's opposition, and claimed the governor was seeking to keep the money at stake in the state's coffers. 

"The governor didn't support it," Schroder said when asked why the measure failed. "The governor got engaged. The governor doesn't like it. The governor thinks it's his money. It's not. ... It's the people's money." 

The proposal would create a system where the state's unclaimed property would be put into a fund, and some would be invested. The profits would eventually be used to help localities pay for infrastructure projects. 

Unclaimed property trust fund advanced by committee

House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, carried the legislation for Schroder. Legislation carried by the speaker, the highest-ranking member of the state House, rarely fails. 

But the constitutional amendment that would let voters decide on whether the state should create the new system failed to get the 70 votes needed when Barras brought it for a vote Thursday evening. The vote was 62-27. 

Edwards spokeswoman Christina Stephens said the governor opposed the bill because it "expanded government," creating a fund the treasurer would have "exclusive control over." 

"The proposed scheme lacked accountability for and transparency of the loan approval process," Stephens said. "There are already several programs that operate to provide assistance to local governments for infrastructure projects through legislative approval and appropriation." 

The constitutional amendment would not need the governor's approval if backed by two-thirds of both the House and Senate. Schroder said he believes the measure has that support if all members are present, which was not the case Thursday. The bill is expected to be brought back up for a vote. 

Schroder said he has support from the state's police jury association and municipal association. He said Georgia has a similar program that saved municipalities more than $50 million this year. 


Follow Sam Karlin on Twitter, @samkarlin.