By Julie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator
Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed approximately $2.3 million worth of pet projects planned for the home communities of eight conservative Louisiana House members who refused to go along with spending $1.4 billion in additional state revenue this year.
The governor’s office announced Thursday his first vetoes from the legislative session that ended last week. His line-item deletions also include $150,000 from a wastewater plant in Rep. Gabe Firment’s district. Firment, R-Pollock, voted with the governor on spending issues but also sponsored legislation to ban gender-affirming health care for transgender youth — one of three anti-LGBTQ+ bills Edwards has said intends to veto.
Nineteen conservative representatives, including the eight who lost project funding, fought Edwards and legislative leaders on lifting a constitutionally mandated state spending restriction. The governor and legislature needed to raise that cap in order to access most of Louisiana’s unprecedented cash largesse this year.
The conservatives wanted to put the state’s additional funding into savings accounts and toward paying down debt. Edwards and Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, pushed to raise the cap in order to put more money into infrastructure projects, public universities, teacher pay and early childhood education.
Edwards indicated legislators who opposed efforts to lift the spending cap would be penalized. He and legislative leaders argued those who wanted to restrict spending shouldn’t reap the benefits of the extra cash made available when the cap was lifted.
The items Edwards struck out of the budget represent a fairly small number of the total pet project spending, estimated to be north of $130 million.
Lawmakers added the pet projects, which benefit either local government organizations or nonprofits, throughout their two-month lawmaking session. But they weren’t publicly vetted or discussed during open budget hearings.
Legislators get to make their pet project requests in secret, without disclosing what funding they asked for, though it’s often assumed projects located in a specific district were requested by the corresponding legislator.
Here’s a list of lawmakers who had projects pulled from their districts and the money lost:
Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City
- South Bossier Park pavilions: $193,000
- South Bossier Park for Field of Dreams: $80,000
- Town of Benton drainage improvements: $40,000
Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton
- Haughton police station facility upgrades: $150,000
- Haughton street maintenance: $100,000
- Haughton Fire Department cascade machine funding: $65,000
Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany
- Livingston Parish Gravity Drainage District No. 5 for equipment: $215,000
- City of Albany: $100,000
Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock
- Urania wastewater plant: $150,000
Rep. Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs
- Washington Parish Fire District No. 2: $265,000
Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro
- City of Scott infrastructure funding: $500,000
Rep. Jonathan Goudeau, R-Lafayette
- Abbeville sidewalk funding: $100,000
Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City
- Town of Oil City for infrastructure needs: $150,000
- Town of Vivian for infrastructure needs: $150,000
- Town of Plain Dealing street and drainage improvements: $40,000
- Town of Plain Dealing street, water and sewer repairs: $25,000
Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport
- American Rose Society: $100,000*