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Aftermath of killing bill shows its necessity

Yesterday’s actions by the Louisiana Senate’s Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee demonstrate exactly why HB 122, which it axed, is needed.

The bill, by state Rep. Phillip DeVillier, would bar state money going to nongovernment entities; raise local government contributions for outlay dollars with some exceptions; shuttle more money for highway, bridge, flood control and flood prevention projects, or to economic development projects; and would allow the chambers’ money committees to vet the list of projects that go before the State Bond Commission. Advocates noted that the current process prompted stuffing the list of projects beyond borrowing capacity, leaving it up to the SBC to pick and choose, over which the governor’s office held the most sway.

Thus, the bill had the salutary aspects of encouraging local governments to budget more responsibly for things they have fobbed off on taxpayers statewide, preventing the playing of favorites in dispensing taxpayer money to private interests, discouraging the fomenting of fictitious promises to build things from oversubscribed project lists, and reducing the politics of the process that enables outsized influence by a handful of individuals. So, naturally, the Democrat-majority committee killed it.

That’s precisely because the current way of doing things is integral to Democrats’ political strategies. They seek to aggrandize more and more power into government and at the state level. This permits them to use the process as a method of command and control, by throwing goodies to local government cabals and to special interests that to pay back then support them in reelection bids.

For some specifically on this committee, it was much more personal. Democrat state Sen. Yvonne Colomb for years had nonprofit organizations affiliated with friends and family benefit substantially from the current rules, misrepresenting themselves all the while.

After disposing of it, that majority then took HB 2, the capital outlay bill, and larded it up. It had come from the House barely above the debt limit, in an excellent demonstration of fiscal restraint, but the committee ignored all that and manifested exactly the behavior HB 122 wished to curb because it serves their political interests.

In a sense, this showed the limitations of HB 122, in that this committee would vet projects. Even had it become law, with a committee of this composition – which, even though the Senate has nearly a 2:1 Republican majority this committee has a nearly 2:1 Democrat majority – could stymie its intentions. Thus, regardless the long reach of the governor – Gov. John Bel Edwards, who influenced substantially Senate committee composition, is a Democrat – still can subvert matters even under the bill’s rules.

That aside, as backers of the bill noted it raises the odds of excising the extremely politicized portion of the process, although obviously it would not eliminate political considerations entirely from something produced by a political institution. As such, it promised wiser stewardship of taxpayer dollars through better matching of actual spending to genuine state needs. But that’s never been a priority in Louisiana.

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