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25.7.07

Odom again intends to use taxpayer funds unwisely

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom is up to his old tricks again, proposing taxpayer funding of ventures likely to fail. Previously having sought to sink money into sugar mill sinkholes, he now wants the state to take possession of a livestock and rodeo arena, plus adjacent land.

Currently, the privately-owned Lamar-Dixon Expo Center is run under a lease-buy agreement with Ascension Parish. Built for $54 million and never having turned a profit, the agreement says the parish may buy in July, 2009 for $7.5 million; Odom has a securitized stream of money he says can support an $8 million price tag upon sale of bonds to accomplish that purpose. He accomplished this because the law dedicating money to boll weevil eradication has a loophole that allows excess funds from it to go to any purpose seen fit by the Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority – a body controlled by Odom which approved this plan.

It may be that the state actually would not take large losses at this price. But the real question is whether the state’s taxpayers ought to be paying up for an arena that will benefit very few. Even more to the point, is this something government at any level should be involved with at all?

Displaying an ignorance of the rightful role of government, Ascension Parish President Ronnie Hughes remarked about this, “Government is in the business of providing services not turning profits.” All right, I love to watch road cycling and can get a little of it on the cable channel Versus but not nearly enough because it’s not a big money-maker for the network. Using Hughes’ logic, I need to get government to provide this service and have taxpayers subsidize this just so I can watch more. Obviously, he needs to learn that government should do only things that protect people from harm by nature or man, or that significantly improve life prospects for those less fortunate not of their own faults.

Of course, in Louisiana government has a history of going way beyond its essential minimalism and thereby intrudes upon the freedom of individuals. This plan would represent another example and the State Bond Commission, controlled by another individual who loves expansive government as does Odom, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, hopefully will go against type and turn this down.

And it reminds one more time that the reason Odom can put the people’s money at risk is the law permitting LAFA the $12 million pot of money every year. Maybe the next, hopefully very new (in terms of attitude) Legislature and governor finally will change the law to stop giving Agriculture secretaries this privilege.

1 comment:

Nick said...

If there's one person we need to throw out of office this election season, it is Bob Odom.

Unfortuantely, the partisan Democrats will line the polls like zombies and vote for the guy again. I don't want hear anyone who votes to keep Odom in office talk about the need to change politics in Louisiana.