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When Reality Meets the Road: Capital Outlay

S. Lincoln

The full Senate took up the state construction bill Wednesday; HB 2, also known as Capital Outlay.

"What HB 2 does, is it establishes our priorities as a state, as to what we believe construction should be,"  Senate Revenue and Fisc chair J.P. Morrell said, as he handled HB 2 in the upper chamber.

On the other side of the Capitol, the bill’s author, House Ways & Means chair Neil Abramson, was getting an update from Bond Commission director Lela Folse -- on how few dollars are actually available.

"When the money in these funds, whether it’s the $125-million in DOTD or the $95-million in Facility Planning's fund, when that money's expended, then what happens?" Abramson asked.

"If you don’t reimburse them with bond proceeds, you can’t spend any other money," Folse replied.

"And when you say 'reimburse them with bond proceeds', we have to go and sell more bonds and get bond proceeds. It's not like we have any sitting on the shelf somewhere?"

"That’s correct."

"Our borrowing capacity, based on our credit-worthiness, is $435-million for the next two years?" Abramson asked.

"That’s correct," Folse confirmed.

Meanwhile, Morrell was reinforcing that theme with Senate members.

"If it’s not in the bill, and your project is under construction, then it will not be funded. And there's nothing you can do to fix that," Morrell advised.

Senators were judicious in their changes, generally substituting funding for one project in their districts with another.  Baton Rouge Senator Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb even asked for a cut.

"With this amendment, I'm changing the ten million to five million, which is a five million dollar reduction."

"A reduction? Let’s hurry up and pass that one!" Senate President John Alario responded. "All right, any objection? Without objection, so ordered."

Cheers broke out on the Senate floor.

"Plus, all those reductions go straight to Westwego. You know the plan," Alario added, getting a few laughs for the old joke.

Call it gallows humor.