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|Capital outlay reform debated|
A proposed change to the way the state doles out capital outlay funds could mean some municipalities might not be eligible for as much funding.
State Sen. Neil Riser, however, said he wants to make sure municipalities in the parishes he represents still received a share of state capital outlay money.
Riser said Senate Bill 527 would require local municipalities to pay matching funds any time the state gives capital outlay funds to local projects.
While the proposal does offer a way for local governments to avoid paying the match, Riser said he wanted to see that formulated into the bill.
"We're working on capital outlay reform," Riser said. "That came to committee yesterday and was deferred again until Monday."
Riser said the bill is a good idea that could help control state spending. Also, Riser said the allowance is made for poorer governments to receive outlay funds.
"If you show that you don't have the funds, then you are exempt from the match," Riser said. "What I'm looking for is a formulation of that before we approve the bill."
Riser said that, without the formulation, some parishes may have trouble meeting the deadlines necessary to avoid the required 20 percent match and that, Riser said, could mean rural parishes in his district would not get funding for critical projects.
"None of my parishes can come up with the required 20 percent of matching funds," Riser said.
In the House of Representatives, State Rep. Noble Ellington said lawmakers have just begun to hear public testimony on the proposed budget of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Legislators will listen to testimony on proposed expenditures and capital outlay requests before voting on Jindal's budget proposals.
Also, the Legislature may end up with some extra money after the Revenue Estimating Committee meets May 9.
Ellington said that time, legislators will be able to better assess how much money they have available and what types of projects can receive needed funds.
Even then, Ellington said funding for special projects is not guaranteed.
"We don't know yet how the governor is going to respond to what we're trying to do and how he's going to respond to some of our local stuff," Ellington said.
Among the items on Ellington's priority list are funding for a number of area museums and community outreach programs.
Also, Ellington said improving fire protection is one of his priorities.
"One of the things I surely want is to be able to get enough money for Crowville to get the fire truck because of the impact that has on insurance rates in the parish," Ellington said.
Securing a new fire truck in Crowville would allow Franklin Parish to improve its fire rating. An improved fire rating could lead to lower fire insurance premiums for residents throughout the parish.
Ellington noted there were several major projects in his district that needed funding and said he could not single out one as more important than the others.
"We represent an area that's not really that affluent and there are so many needs that it's hard to pick just one," Ellington said.