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Slush fund requests still alive but maybe not well

Since the Legislature is in session, it’s time for nongovernmental organization to come out of the woodwork with hands out begging money from the taxpayers of Louisiana, even when state money is tight as in this year. As usual, a large portion of them are peripheral to any real need, want to exist mostly if not exclusively on government money, are wacky, tardy, simply frivolous, or all of the above.

This week the House Appropriations Committee will give for now the green light to some, to which Green Light New Orleans is one of them. Perhaps the most ridiculous requester of the couple of hundred that have submitted, it wants taxpayers to cough up $25,000 for people to change light bulbs in its passion for a more energy-efficient world.

But there are a number of other head-scratchers:

  • A Piece of New Orleans wants the state to surrender the entire budget of the former business, $300,000, in order to allow it to resume manufacturing Carnival trinkets; has this gal heard of banks? (She also is the director of We the People Economic Development Corporation which asks for $300,000 for continuing a variety of activities.)
  • Campti Community Development Center, Inc. (connected to the mayor of Campti) wants $100,000 coughed up to build a structure to serve the population of Campti, all 1,057 of them; has this gal heard of the town using its own resources or government loans to do so?
  • Friends of Hilltop, Inc. wants to get a gift of $250,000 to build an extension on Louisiana State University Baton Rouge land; why doesn’t this go through LSU’s capital budget request?
  • The Independence Bowl Foundation seeks another taxpayer donation, this of $334,018, which one can make a half-decent argument that this is economic development – except the request is for 2009, not the current year; maybe they want to use this to pay off the once-secret loan from Shreveport?
  • Justified Mediation’s sole proprietor Linda Seals wants the state to pay $118,650 to let her go around training mediation; can’t she find a real job?
  • Lakeshore Indians Booster Club petitioned for $25,000 to build a walking path in Metairie; have the directors ever thought to go to Jefferson Parish for the money or maybe just gotten a few donations and sweat equity to do it themselves?
  • The Louisiana Center Against Poverty, Inc. wants the state to foot its entire budget, $300,000, to duplicate programs being done by varying levels of government in and around Lake Providence.
  • Progress 63 Incorporated would like the state to pay for all sorts of things duplicative that comprise its entire budget that produce a “progressive community,” perhaps related to the desires of the late state Rep. Avon Honey who used to represent Representative District 63.
  • And RIZ Up Louisiana, connected to state Rep. Regina Barrow, is back asking for its entire budget as well, also promising to do “progressive” things for youths which also seem largely duplicative of other efforts.
  • St. Louis King of France School, a Catholic secondary school, wants bucks to supplement its offerings; should the Archdiocese of New Orleans be responsible for this?
  • The Wood Products Development Foundation wants $200,000 for a marketing campaign for wood; aren’t there a bunch of forest products corporations in the state either doing this or who would be willing to pay for this?

These are just a dozen fairly representative programs that might have difficulty meeting all but one of the criteria set out by Gov. Bobby Jindal to escape a veto by him: that it must have a statewide or "substantial regional" impact; have been openly discussed during the legislative session; be a state agency priority; and have a disclosure form published on the Legislature's website. A large number of submissions not listed join them in that characteristic. Of the remainder, one wonders whether the kinds of things they do cannot be raised from donors and, if not, whether enough demand or importance exists for them.

Most interesting will be whether anything gets slipped into the appropriations bill or whether Jindal lets anything escape his veto pen; the budget being as tight as it is, even a few million dollars may be too much to spare.

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