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More Money for Roads, Less for State Police

The House Appropriations Committee has advanced a bill that would keep highway dollars committed to road work by limiting how much can be shifted to State Police.

“Throughout this state, the common theme is that the legislators have raided the Transportation Trust Fund for other needs,” said New Iberia Rep. Terry Landry, in explaining reasons for authoring HB 208.

Landry said one of those reasons is not any kind of problem with the Department of Public Safety or Louisiana State Police.

“I’m a former commander of the State Police. I love the organization. I support them 100 percent,” Landry emphasized.

But he also serves on the House Transportation Committee, and said the $12-billion backlog of unfunded road, bridge and port projects has gotten out of hand.

New Orleans Rep. Walt Leger thoroughly cross-examined Landry about the bill.

“It troubles me a little bit to claim that it is a ‘raiding’ of the Transportation Trust Fund when, by constitution, State Police funding is allowable,” Leger said.

“The public are concerned that we’re ‘raiding’ this trust fund,” Landry said, citing public input during transportation committee meetings conducted around the state. “Now whether that’s real or perception, it is perception in the eyes of the public.”

Money from the Transportation Trust Fund can be allocated — constitutionally — for “traffic control” by State Police, but Landry noted the administration took nearly $70-million from TTF in the current budget year, in order to make up shortfalls in the overall state police budget.

“While the TTF is available to fund important infrastructure priorities, the ability of it to do that has been put at risk because of continued dedications to State Police, in your opinion?” Leger asked.

“In my opinion,” Landry averred, then quipped, “I sound like I’m on the witness stand there, Mr. Leger. And I am, I guess.”

Landry told the committee there’s another bill, by Senate Transportation Committee chairman Robert Adley, that would take all state police funding out of the Transportation Trust Fund immediately.

“I like my bill better, because it weans them off the money gradually — giving us time to find alternate funding for them,” Landry stated. Landry’s bill would limit State Police to using 40-million TTF dollars in the upcoming fiscal year, $25-million in FY 2017, and just $10-million in any year after that.

House Appropriations must have liked Landry’s testimony — and his bill. They approved it, 17-0.