Acadiana lost $26.6 million in proposed construction projects with the stroke of Gov. John Bel Edwards veto pen Wednesday.
Twenty-nine projects were part of the 40 items struck from the state’s annual construction budget by Edwards using his line-item veto authority.
Most of the Republican House members of the Acadiana delegation steadfastly oppose Edwards’ efforts to raise revenues through taxes to cover the costs of promised government services.
A second special session collapsed on Monday after legislators passed a budget but balked at retaining part of a sales tax penny set to expire in three weeks. Edwards now is in the position of having to dramatically cut services to balance the budget before July 1 or calling lawmakers back for another go at raising revenues.
The bulk of rejected spending authorizations in House Bill 2, called capital outlay, were for projects in Iberia, Lafayette and St. Martin parishes, represented by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia; and from Vermilion Parish, represented mostly Republican Rep. Blake Miguez, of Erath.
A frequent and ardent critic of Edwards’ initiatives to balance the state budget using increased revenues, Miguez says government needs to be smaller and the budget can be balanced by reducing state spending. He says his constituents are paying the price for his opposing the governor.
“I know he’s playing politics,” Miguez said of Edwards’ line-item vetoes. “There are other ways to get the message across than telling people that none of the money they sent to Baton Rouge is coming back to their parish for needed improvements, roads and bridges.”
Edwards cut authorization for $2.19 million from eight projects in Vermilion Parish, including drainage improvements and bridge repairs.
“Our fiscal challenges are holding us back from the strategic investments that we need to be making in critical infrastructure projects around the state,” Edwards said in his statement. He noted that major infrastructure improvements have been approved for every region of the state.
“I promised to reform the way we manage our capital outlay program so that it is fair, realistic and strategic in nature,” Edwards said.
Edwards scratched $1.8 million for 11 projects in Iberia Parish, almost all of them in Barras’ district. Barras did not return a call and a text seeking comment.
Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, however, noted that Edwards left the most important projects to Iberia Parish – dredging in the Port of Iberia and improved access to the airport – in the capital outlay bill.
“I would hope it was not a shot across the bow or retribution for having a different philosophy on government – that would be juvenile,” said House GOP Majority Leader Lance Harris, of Alexandria.
But all line vetoes aren’t necessarily political, he said. For instance, Edwards also struck $5.3 million for drainage improvements on the LSU Alexandria campus in Harris’ district. Harris said the governor had found federal grant money for the project, so the veto was more about tidying up HB2.
Democratic Rep. Terry Landry, a supporter of the governor’s saw one of the projects in his district removed by the governor – drainage improvements on Charles, Ann and Dale Streets in New Iberia.
Landry said the amount of money the state can borrow to pay for these projects is linked to the state budget, which many representatives want to see balanced through cuts.
“The people who think we don’t have a revenue problem and want to cut government, shouldn’t be surprised when the governor cuts projects, including theirs,” Landry said.
Louisiana senators approved Wednesday morning legislation that should theoretically be able to fund the vast majority, if not all, of the high…
House Bill 2 annually funds millions of dollars in construction projects across the state, from event center upgrades to road improvements in legislators' home districts.
Edwards deleted authorization for $12 million to extend Apollo Road from Scott, a town of 10,000 near Interstate 10, to the southern parts of Lafayette. Another $6.5 million for the planning and construction of a long-considered loop around Lafayette also was axed.
A municipal complex in Parks, a recreational aquatic facility in Arnaudville, and a boat launch in Leonville all were removed.
Elizabeth Crisp of The Advocate Capitol news bureau contributed to this report