The political grandstanding at the State Capitol dove to a new low this week as State Treasurer John Schroder led an effort to inject gun rights debates into a mundane decision of the State Bond Commission.
The result is the possibility that Louisiana taxpayers won't get the best deal on financing of a new highway bond issue, because the commission barred two national banks from offering bids for the work.
The irrelevant issue: Schroder and the commission majority don't like some national banks' decisions to restrict loans to makers of assault-style weapons used in deadly mass shootings.
The decision of the commission is questionable legally but, worse, it is another sign of pandering politicians injecting headline-making issues into routine mechanics of government.
On 7-6 vote, the commission excluded Citigroup Inc., the nation’s third-largest bank, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the second-largest, from participating in a $600 million highway borrowing plan.
Schroder made the motion saying the banks’ restrictions infringed on Louisiana residents’ constitutional right to buy guns. “As treasurer and chairman of the Bond Commission it is one of my duties to help hire financial professionals and not necessarily social engineers,” he said.
We agree with several more responsible officials of both political parties that gun policy is not the purview of the bond commissioners, whose job is better understood — although not by the state treasurer, apparently — as purely getting the best financing deal for taxpayers. This is a pointless political fight, pure and simple, that has the potential to restrict competition when the state seeks bids for financing the new highway projects.
“I am worried about the bottom line to the state of Louisiana, too. True conservatives worry about the dollars,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, a member of the commission.
He is right and Schroder and his colleagues are wrong.
The banks' representatives at the commission meeting said that their national superiors' decisions probably had little to no effect on Louisiana customers.
Renee Boicourt, the commission’s financial adviser, said prohibiting the two banks that control a third of the nation’s government bond market would cost state taxpayers more money. She also noted that only Chicago considered tying gun control policy to bonds, but city officials backed off upon realizing the move would make bonds more expensive
We don't know if this needless fight will endanger financing of the $600 million bond issue, but we do know that the projects to be funded are vital to state motorists. The bonds would pay for widening Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge and improving access into the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, along with a project in Shreveport.
These are needed projects. The bond commission should be trying to smooth the way for them instead of playing politics that might lead to lawsuits and delays.
For the hard-pressed drivers on Interstate 10 in New Orleans, Interstate 110 in midtown Baton Rouge, and Interstate 20 in Shreveport and Bossi…