Jindal administration using convention center money to offset deep cuts

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wwltv.com

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 28 at 7:01 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The budget hole in Baton Rouge has now grown to an estimated $1.3 billion for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Gov. Bobby Jindal is hoping to avoid massive cuts to higher education and healthcare by taking money from reserve funds across the state.

His $24.7 billion spending proposal would get $100 million from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Much of the money was set aside to build phase four of the sprawling facility along the riverfront.

"That is a state entity," said Jindal. "They've got $170 million in reserves. This is above and beyond the money they use for operations."

State Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, calls it a money grab.

"It should not be taken and used for the state general fund," said Brossett. "I disagree with their raiding of the fund. It's a problem all over the state what the governor is doing as it relates to this budget."

The governor says the convention center would be made whole by getting $100 million in capital outlay money in return for the cash, down the road.

"At the end of the day, they're going to get that money for their construction projects, and we'll just do it through the capital outlay program instead of this reserve fund," said Jindal.

State Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, who sits on the legislative committee that doles out the state's construction dollars, said there's no guarantee the convention center will get that kind of money.

"Once it gets into the process, of course there's a lot of other projects that have been in the pipeline for a long time that have either been awaiting funding or are in the process and need continued funding," said Smith.

Jindal says he's not the least bit uncomfortable using a total of about $420 million in one-time funds to balance the state budget.

"Without those dollars, not just from the convention center, but some of these other funds, you'd be looking at a 19 percent reduction on our university campuses, including UNO, SUNO, Southeastern and other universities."

A spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Thursday afternoon, the city got a commitment from the Jindal administration to keep the convention center money in New Orleans.

Earlier Landrieu complained, "Every municipality in Louisiana ought to be concerned if the State can come in and take the receipts from a local hotel/motel tax and spend it somewhere else for a purpose for which it wasn't intended."

 

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