Archive for the ‘Golf Courses’ Category

At the risk of sounding racist, Gov. Bobby Jindal has to be considered as a true Indian giver. More accurately, an Indian giver with no leadership qualities.

There. I’ve said it. Someone had to.

Gov. “I’m not taking and federal stimulus money” Jindal back in September finally acquiesced and made formal application for $147 million in education funding. That was the amount for which Louisiana was deemed eligible from the $26 billion federal stimulus bill that was passed by Congress in August.

State Superintendent of Education Paul—“I didn’t know it was improper to use a state vehicle for dozens of personal trips to Chicago”—Pastorek said the state was making the application for the money because there were “no policy strings attached.”

“No strings” notwithstanding, federal guidelines required that the money go directly to the local school districts and that the money be used to pay salaries and benefits for teachers, school administrators and other staff.

The local school district officials were ecstatic. In some parishes it had already been determined that the local districts could no longer afford to pay substitute teachers when regular teachers were out sick and that the regular teachers would have to pay them out of their own salaries. Suddenly it seemed there was relief for the local officials who worked the infusion of cash into their operating budgets.

Then, just as suddenly, Jindal last week pulled the rug from under the local districts. More precisely, he pulled the money.

He created his own strings, it seems, choosing to commandeer the money to plug the $106 million hole in the administration’s budget and to offset cuts to higher education, an area he has already gutted with earlier cuts. In fact, one might suspect that the political backlash against his higher ed cuts were such that in grasping for an answer, he fell upon the brilliant idea of jerking the $147 from public education. Problem solved or leadership void?

Jindal’s latest misstep lays bare the sad fact that he really has no plan for pulling Louisiana out of the current fiscal morass. He is every bit as lost in facing this crisis as Gov. Kathleen Blanco was in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But give Gov. Blanco her due: her crisis was not self-inflicted, but was a natural disaster with which nearly anyone would have been ill-equipped to deal.

Jindal, on the other hand, had to see this coming. We were warned that the legislature should not be spending one-time money from the hurricane recovery funds in the manner it was. No one listened; not the legislature and certainly not the governor who was loath to use the line item veto at his disposal.

And now, in the middle of a fiscal crisis and with an even bigger one looming next year, what does Jindal do? He scoots off to dozens of states to campaign on behalf of Republican candidates for governor, Congress, and the U.S. Senate, leaving home-schooled subordinates to grapple with the budget deficit. For those not especially good at history, Richard Nixon did the same thing in preparation for his successful 1968 run at the president’s office, except he did it as a private citizen. He lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and then somehow managed to lose the California governor’s election to Pat Brown, prompting his famous line, “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around any longer.”

Instead, Nixon, not as a sitting governor ignoring responsibilities to his state, began working on behalf of Republican candidates, amassing in the process, a hatful of chits that he was able to redeem in 1968. That’s exactly what Jindal seems to be doing. He was absent so often during the state’s worsening financial crisis, that the president of the LSU student body fired off a letter to a New Hampshire newspaper asking the governor to return home.

Jindal insists he has the job he wants. If that’s true, he should stay home and do that job. Instead of staying home once the November elections were over, however, he now embarks to a tour to tout his book, Leadership and Crisis. That begs the question, “what leadership?” Jindal “presided over Louisiana’s healthcare system at age 24, headed the University of Louisiana system at 27, became a U.S. congressman at 33, and was elected governor of Louisiana at 36,” according to the Amazon.com promotion of his book. Do we see a trend here? The two systems that he headed under former Gov. Mike Foster, higher education and health care, are the two agencies that he appears determined to dismantle.

Again, the question: “what leadership?”

Jindal had his chance. He blew it. He could have slashed away at the Capital Outlay Bill in the session that ended last summer, but he didn’t. He could easily have cut nearly half-a-billion in wasteful spending from the bill, but he didn’t. He could bring himself to cut only $9.4 million. And now he has backed himself into a corner.

Where was the leadership, Gov. Jindal?

Instead of spending millions of dollars purchasing golf courses, the governor could have said no. But he didn’t.

Where was the leadership?

In ordering deeper cuts recently, Jindal told department heads the state needed more leadership and less whining. Immediately after making that brash statement, the state’s leader in abstensia left for Pittsburgh, PA, to campaign for yet another Republican candidate.

Where was the leadership?

Just in case you may have missed it, Governor, here again is a partial list of inappropriate appropriations that, had they been vetoed on one of the days that you were in the state, the financial mess in which we now find ourselves might have been averted.

That would be real leadership.

So, please read these during your next flight to some other state to promote your leadership book:

• $800,000 for land acquisition for the proposed Allen Parish Reservoir;
• $1.4 million for the proposed Bayou Dechene Reservoir in Caldwell Parish;
• $2.6 million for the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission Feasibility study;
• $17.2 million for Bayou Segnette Festival Park land acquisition and sports complex improvements;
• $28 million for modifications to the Performing Arts Center in Jefferson Parish;
• $2 million for construction of a playground Basketball Gym in Orleans Parish;
• $1.8 million for construction of the Little Theatre of Shreveport;
• $2.6 million for a new Westbank YMCA in Algiers;
• $2 million for the New Orleans Music Hall of Fame;
• $6 million for construction of a new courthouse in Baton Rouge;
• $2.8 million for the Dryades YMCA in New Orleans;
• $5.4 million for the Red River Waterway Commission;
• $7.7 million for the renovation of the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette;
• $2.5 million for improvements to the Coteau Water System in St. Martin and Iberia parishes;
• $2.4 million for the Union Parish Law Enforcement District;
• $1.8 million for construction for the Robinson Film Center in Caddo Parish;
• $12 million for construction of a convention center complex in Shreveport;
• $3.8 million for a new tennis center in Orleans Parish;
• $4.7 million for construction of the Louisiana Artist Guild Arts Incubator in New Orleans;
• $26.5 million for expansion and construction of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Millions more were spent on construction projects that included recreational facilities, councils on aging, courthouses, sheriffs’ offices, jails, drainage projects, work on parish and municipal road and street construction projects, community centers, and water systems.

As if that were not enough, when legislators found extra money lying around, as they always seem to do during each legislative session, the House quickly pushed HB 76 through, appropriating an additional $33 million in local pork projects. Some of those expenditures:

• $150,000 for the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in Winnfield;
• $500,000 for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities;
• $500,000 to “organizations which assist small towns and rural areas with their water and wastewater systems;”
• $250,000 for construction of an animal shelter in St. Charles Parish;
• $1 million to the Lafayette Parish Consolidated Government for infrastructure construction.

Where was the leadership?


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Okay, after much deliberation, soul-searching, and with encouragement from family and friends (and co-workers who just want me go somewhere, anywhere else), it is with tongue planted firmly in cheek that I announce my candidacy for governor of the gret stet of looziana.

I am offering my services with a fairly simple no-frills platform. Some of the individual planks in my platform are certain to offend some very influential people—and that’s a good thing. So, without fanfare, frills or equivocation, and with the promise of no compromise, here is that platform:

No out-of-state campaigning for any Democrat or Republican candidate. My first responsibility will be to the citizens of Louisiana, not some two-faced, lying parasite who has never held a real job. Besides, I’m an independent. Plus, I don’t trust any politician. And no out-of-state travel for book signings, either;

Merge several universities and junior colleges throughout the state and convert some four-year schools to junior college status. Failing that, at least merge some of the programs—such as the law schools at Southern University and LSU in Baton Rouge. With the help of a reluctant legislature, this will cut duplication in athletic scholarships, salaries of coaches and university administrators, and in replicated programs;

Turn over all operations of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security (otherwise known as the Governor’s Patronage Department) to the State Police where it was originally and should be again. If you recall, the administration pushed through a constitutional amendment in October that changed the Office of Homeland Security from classified (civil service) to non-classified (appointive) so that Homeland Security employees may receive any size pay raise the administration deems appropriate. Civil service employees, meanwhile, have their merit raises frozen indefinitely;

Eliminate the lieutenant governor’s office and assign the duties of that office to the secretary of state. Hey, it worked with the elections commission;

Have the Office of Contractual Review do its job by reviewing ALL contracts, including consulting contracts, to determine need;

Use the governor’s line-item veto to cut wasteful spending and to balance the state budget instead of laying off employees who have families to support, college tuition and home mortgages to pay, and who need health insurance;

In lieu of layoffs, offer state employees the option of accepting a pay cut of 7.5 to 10% for those making $50,000 to $100,000; 15% for those making up to $200,000; 20% for salaries of $200,000 to $300,000, and 25% for anyone making more than $300,000. Most employees would opt for a pay cut if it meant saving their jobs but sadly, the present administration has never even considered this option. Legislators would also be required to take a 25% cut. In fact, cut cabinet level salaries altogether;

Sell off all state golf courses. No additional explanation necessary;

Revisit the sacred Homestead Exemption (see? It’s even capitalized.);

Increase tobacco and alcohol taxes to at least the national average. If people are going to kill themselves with their indulgences, at least make ‘em pay for the privilege and make ‘em pay for the use of our charity hospital system when they develop catastrophic illnesses related to their vices;

Pass a constitutional amendment that future budget cuts, when necessary, won’t affect education or health care (someone needs to do this.);

Block computer games and internet access to legislators on Senate and House floors during legislative sessions;

Require all lobbyists to register with the Secretary of State (they already register with the House Speaker, but that’s too close to the center of power) and assess a hefty registration fee for all lobbyists except for non-profits;

Discontinue publishing legislative acts and other legal news in the Baton Rouge newspaper. This practice is cost prohibitive now that we have the free internet;

Enact a tough ethics code with real teeth. Bar any gifts to legislators, including meals, drinks, parties, etc. Any lobbyist violating said act shall be subject to severe fines and shall be barred from all future legislative sessions. Any legislator violating said act shall be subject to heavy fines and forfeiture of legislative pay for duration of his/her term of office.

Consolidate investigative agencies. Louisiana currently has five investigative agencies: the attorney general’s office, the ethics commission, the inspector general, the state police investigation program and the legislative auditor. Total budget for the five agencies: $55 million. Because the present administration has already gutted, stripped, and otherwise neutered the ethics commission. I suggest the state police absorb the auditor’s office, the inspector general, and ethics commission and that any investigations now pending with the latter three agencies be turned over to the state police. You may have noticed that the attorney general was left out of the loop. That’s because the AG is elected and as such, is a politician and not to be trusted with any investigation of state officials.

There you have it: my complete platform. Oh, wait. There is one more: No campaign contributions shall be accepted from any person, organization, foundation, PAC, or lobbyist.

I guess I should go ahead and write my concession speech now.

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When the State of Louisiana purchased the assets of financially troubled Tournament Players Club (TPC) golf club in Marrero in Jefferson Parish on September 10, 2009, it’s no wonder the Division of Administration did not inform the State Land Office for a full year.

State Land Office (SLO) Administrator Charles St. Romain said his office is responsible for the identification, administration and management of state public lands and waterbottoms, but that he was unaware that the state had purchased the TPC facilities until September of this year.

The Act of Sale, dated September 10, 2009, was signed by then-Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis. The purchase price was $9,150,000. Davis resigned in August of this year.

Marrero Land and Improvement Association, headed by real estate developer Buckner Barkley, a financial backer of the Louisiana Republican Party and Gov. Bobby Jindal, donated about 250 acres of land in 2001—during the administration of then-Gov. Murphy Foster. The state in turn spent about $12.8 million to pay for the cost of building the course which hosts the Zurich Classic PGA Tournament each year.

The state then leased the property to TPC and Foster agreed to a deal whereby the state guaranteed a minimum number of rounds of golf at the facility each year. The rounds were to be purchased through hotel concierges in New Orleans but the hotel industry was not informed of the deal initially and the state found itself shelling out $5.1 million in the club’s very first year.

The club continued to lose money and in 2009, the state purchased the facility. The Division of Administration in November of 2008, more than nine months before the execution of the sales agreement, entered into an agreement with the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED) to administer the club. LSED also manages the Louisiana Superdome.

LSED in turn executed a “golf facility management agreement” with TPC Louisiana under which TPC would manage the club for 30 years for a minimum of $100,000 per year, plus an incentive management fee of 2.5 percent of gross revenues and 10 percent of net revenues not to exceed $150,000 per year with annual increases not to exceed 3 percent per annum. That agreement was dated September 10, 2009, the same date as the sales agreement between TPC and the state.

No explanation was given as to why the state bailed out a failing facility for nearly $9.2 million and immediately turned the operation of that facility back over to the company that had been running it at a financial loss.

Even more puzzling is why the state saw the need to invest in a golf course in the first place. Or in the case of the Louisiana Legislature, four golf courses. The state is also financing the construction of courses in Lake Charles and Alexandria and it assumed operation of Black Bear Golf Course at Poverty Point in 2006. Since 1997, the state has spent in excess of $141 million on golf courses—all at a time when the state budget is hemorrhaging red ink and designer golf courses are on the decline in popularity and shutting down all over the country.

The Louisiana Municipal Police Employee Retirement System (MPERS) in October 2009 lost its $24 million investment in the Hal Sutton designed Boot Ranch Development golf club in Fredericksburg, Texas. That would be bad enough if that were the only such loss by MPERS, but it’s not. The retirement system has also dropped $12.1 million on Olde Oaks Golf Club in Haughton (and still losing $500,000 a year) and $3.1 million on The Club at Stonebridge, also in Bossier Parish. MPERS also lost an additional $15.7 million on its purchase of and improvements to the development of Olde Oaks properties, bringing its total losses just on golf courses to more than $39 million.

Golf courses that have recently closed in Louisiana include:

• The Bluffs Country Club in St. Francisville, designed by Arnold Palmer and which opened in 1988, closed in March of 2009;
• Sherwood Forest Country Club, Fairwood Country Club, and Shenandoah Country Club in Baton Rouge;
• Santa Maria Golf Course in Baton Rouge, designed by Robert Trent Jones (closed for a year before being re-opened by East Baton Rouge Parish);
• Carter Plantation Golf Club in Springfield in Livingston Parish, designed by David Toms, while not closed, has not performed up to expectations and is currently mired in litigation;
• Belle Terre Golf and Country Club in LaPlace in St. John the Baptist Parish (closed in August of this year).

In Georgia, the Fairways of Canton has closed, leaving that city on the hook for annual payments of $300,000. Other golf courses that have closed in Georgia include courses in Jones Creek, Tucker, and Roswell. In all, at least 15 golf courses in Georgia currently are on the market.

A quick internet check revealed clubs for sale all over the country, including three in Louisiana (Florien, Ethel, and Monroe). Others on the market in neighboring states include four each in Mississippi and Alabama, three in Arkansas, and a dozen in Texas.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, the state will realize on its investments in the four golf courses but should any or all of them fail, it’s pretty certain some hard questions will need to be asked—and answered.

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As the Jindal administration considers even more budgetary cuts—as much as 35 percent—in an attempt to offset the effects of an anticipated fiscal free fall estimated to be as much as $2 billion next year, the sacrificial lambs of higher education and health care are once again being led to the altar for the ritualistic bloodletting.

Meanwhile, as is usually the case when the legislature is faced with budgetary shortfalls, many other spending programs by lawmakers go on unabated. As puzzling as it must be to taxpayers constantly bombarded with bad news out of Baton Rouge, the elected representatives and senators just can’t seem to bring themselves to exercise the fiduciary discipline to keep reckless spending in check.

They are, to use a time-worn metaphor, the foxes guarding the henhouse.

A good example of the leadership void can be found in the way the legislators spend unexpected financial windfalls. When agencies fail to spend all of their budgets during a fiscal year, the excess funding reverts back to the state treasury where lawmakers are waiting like so many vultures to pounce on it for local pork barrel spending.

Take this year’s HB-76, the so-called “ancillary appropriations bill.” As soon as the extra money was “found,” legislators, instead of allocating all the new money to education and health care, poured $33 million into local funding projects like convention centers, municipalities and parishes, arts councils, councils on aging, and museums.

As irresponsible as all this may seem, it pales in comparison to what the state has spent on golf courses, baseball parks, and other recreational complexes down through the years.

Because figures prior to 1997 are unavailable, this post will address only those expenditures dating back to that year. But those 14 years should be sufficient for even the casual reader to detect a disturbing trend in spending priorities in this state.

Since 1997, the state of Louisiana, through the legislative process, has deemed it necessary to spend $141 million on golf courses.

One doesn’t have to be a math wizard to see that that averages out to $10 million per year. And that doesn’t include various university golf courses. These are private golf courses, one and all.

Another $18.5 million was spent during that same time frame on baseball parks, including nearly $4 million on a baseball stadium in Baton Rouge, which has no baseball team.

The real irony in all this can be found in two 2007 appropriations for the city of Westlake, near Lake Charles. That year, $6.12 million was appropriated in Priority 1 funding for golf course planning and development. That same year, $100,000 in Priority 2 funding and $800,000 in Priority 5 funding was appropriated for planning and construction of a new emergency response center for Westlake, which was putting up $900,000 in local matching funds.

The difference in Priorities 1, 2, and 5? Priority 1 means that the fund are virtually a certainty. Priority 2 means next year. Maybe. Priority 5 means lots of luck, you may get the money and you may not.

Over the 14 years in question, the Westlake golf club received nine separate Priority 1 appropriations totaling $37.96 million.

Not to be outdone, the Tournament Players Club in Jefferson Parish got seven separate appropriations totaling $48.2 million. City Park Golf Complex in New Orleans, with seven Priority 1 appropriations, got $33.8 million.

Other golf course expenditures included:

• $16.1 million for the England (Airpark) Golf Course in Rapides Parish;
• $600,000 for the Bayou Segnette Golf Course in Jefferson parish;
• $2.7 million for development of a golf resort at Toledo Bend;
• $2 million to promote the Audubon Trail golf courses in efforts to promote more rounds;
• $16,000 for the Delhi Municipal Golf Course;
• $301,000 for the Black Bear Golf Club at Poverty Point (part of the Audubon Trail);
• $250,000 for the 2002 Compaq Golf Tournament in New Orleans;
• $550,000 for junior golf facilities and the Fore Kids Foundation golf tournament;
• $250,000 for promotion of the Classic Foundation golf tournament in New Orleans;
• $1.7 million for the Louisiana Junior Golf Commission.

The state also spent an additional $5.25 million on the LSU golf course, part of which was relocating four holes on the course, money some might suggest would come from the LSU athletic department.

Of course, golf is not the only interest of the legislature. It also has appropriated funding for such projects as the Hot Air Balloon Championship in Baton Rouge ($50,000), the RedFish Tour ($75,000), the National Baptist Convention in New Orleans ($75,000), and the Bayou Classic football game between Southern and Grambling universities ($100,000), the Zephyrs’ baseball stadium in Jefferson Parish ($4.68 million over four years), a baseball complex for Iberia Parish ($7.34 million over eight years), improvements to a Baton Rouge baseball stadium with no tenant ($3.95 million over three years), construction of baseball fields at Negreet and Killian high schools ($35,000), and construction of a baseball-softball complex in Rapides Parish $2.73 million).

The Black Bear Golf Course at Poverty Point was constructed on private property owned by the Poverty Point Development Corp. under the auspices of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development as part of a retirement community developed by State Sen. Francis Thompson and his brother, Mike Thompson. Once completed, the golf course was donated to the Louisiana Office of Culture and Tourism with the proviso that a “professional manager” be appointed to administer the day to day operations of Black Bear. The manager appointed was Mike Thompson.

The Tournament Players Club Louisiana Golf Course (TPC) has proved to be the real money pit for the state. Promoted by Sen. John Alario of Westwego and developer Buckner Barkley, Jr., TPC has been a money loser from the outset. The course was developed in an effort to pull a major PGA tournament into Jefferson Parish.

The state, during the administration of Gov. Mike Foster, entered into an agreement with TPC and Marrero Land and Improvement Association whereby the state guaranteed a minimum number of rounds played. The rounds were required to be booked through New Orleans hotel concierges promoting the course. The hotel industry initially was not informed of the agreement and was unable to meet booking quotas.

The annual Zurich Classic is played at TPC and the fear was that it would lose the tournament and should that have happened, the property, with no professional tournament facilitator, would revert to Marrero Land. To avert that occurrence, the Superdome Commission and commission chairman Doug Thornton negotiated a new deal whereby the state would pay off TPC’s $10 million indebtedness and take ownership of the property in exchange for a six-year commitment from the PGA to keep the Zurich Classic there.

While some legislators maintain the state should not be in the golf business, proponents of the arrangement insist it is the best option for the state, that it is good for the economy.

Likewise, supporters claim that the golf courses, such as Black Bear, are good for economic development and make the state’s investments a good idea.

Manufacturing plants, Wal-Marts, and job-intensive industry also make good economic sense. So why doesn’t the state just go out and buy a dozen or so Wal-Marts, open a few car dealerships and manufacturing plants and give people jobs instead of taking over golf courses and putting a legislator’s relative in charge?

Don’t be surprised when next Spring, one of those tiny Smart Cars pulls up in front of the State Capitol and 144 clowns, complete with orange wigs, big shoes, red noses, seltzer bottles, pies, and horns, pile out, run up the steps of the Capitol and into the Senate and House chambers to call the 2011 legislative session into disorder.

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            If the recently-concluded legislative session proved anything, it’s that lawmakers have little or no self-discipline when it comes to budgetary restraint in the face of overwhelming revenue shortfalls.

            Even as higher education was groping with ways to survive up to $310 million in cuts, legislators went on their annual spending binge. As if the $4.55 billion capital outlay budget crammed with local pork were not enough, legislators raided more than $140 million from the state emergency response fund, earmarking an additional $33 million for even more local projects in the ancillary budget, also identified as HB-76.

            The cuts to the Department of Health and Hospitals and higher education seemed not to matter a whit to some lawmakers. Rep. James Fannin (D-Jonesboro), defending the HB-76 pork, sniffed, “I don’t have an LSU in my district,” apparently forgetting for the moment that he most likely has quite a few constituents enrolled at LSU as well as LSU-Shreveport, Southern University-Shreveport, Northwestern State University, Louisiana Tech University, Grambling State University, or the University of Louisiana Monroe, all within an hour’s drive from his district.

            Not that LSU helped itself in the fiscal doom and gloom dialogue.

            Even as LSU System President John Lombardi was busy identifying $46 million in potential budget cuts, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved pay increases for two associate athletic directors. While faculty and support staff layoffs were being considered across campus, Senior Associate Athletic Director Verge Ausberry was awarded a 27 percent raise from $130,000 to $165,000. Fellow Senior Associate AD Mark Ewing, meanwhile, got a pay bump of 11 percent, from $155,000 to $172,000.

            Nor did Gov. Bobby Jindal attempt to stare down lawmakers, possibly out of concern of pushing the legislature into holding the first-ever veto session. He managed to veto 32 projects in HB-76 totaling only $2 million, leaving $31 million intact, and only eight projects totaling $20.1 million of the capital outlay bill (HB-2), trimming those expenditures all the way to $4.35 billion.

            For a year or more now, the media have trumpeted impending fiscal disaster as revenue shortfalls devastated agency budgets across the board. Yet lawmakers, seemingly oblivious to it all, continued to plow local projects into a budget already strained to the breaking point. If any of the 144 legislators were worried, no one appeared to exhibit concern. So eager to bring money back home were legislators that a $100,000 appropriation for Centenary College in Shreveport, a private Methodist school, was approved.

            Among the projects legislators poured into the Supplemental Appropriations Bill (HB-76) and the Capital Outlay Bill (HB-2) were:

  • Nearly $1.5 million on 50 parish councils on aging;
  • More than $29 million for municipalities and parishes for unspecified purposes;
  • $43.7 million in arts programs statewide;
  • $600,000 for an animal shelters in St. Charles and Livingston parishes;
  • $6.9 million for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches;
  • $18.7 million for professional sports facilities in Jefferson and Orleans parishes;
  • $12.7 million for golf complex facilities in Orleans and Calcasieu parishes;
  • $9.37 million in ground water reservoirs;
  • $7.5 million in local sewer system projects;
  • $19.9 million in local courthouse construction projects;
  • $17.1 million for Bayou Segnette Festival Park and Sports Complex improvements;
  • $18.5 million for recreational improvements in Jefferson, Vernon, Tangipahoa, Orleans, East Baton Rouge, and Iberia parishes;
  • $3.8 million for an activity center in Morehouse Parish;
  • $3.5 million for land acquisition in St. James Parish;
  • $4.6 million for renovations to the Baton Rouge River Center;
  • $1.4 million for baseball stadium improvements in Baton Rouge;
  • $1.17 million for renovations to the Zephyrs baseball facilities in Jefferson Parish;
  • $3.5 million for museums throughout the state;
  • $2 million for a farmers and fisheries market in Jefferson Parish;
  • $11 million for the Audubon 2000 renovations;
  • $3.8 million for tennis center improvements at New Orleans City Park;
  • $26.5 million for the National World War II Museum;
  • $400,000 for a bike trail in Orleans Parish;
  • $1.7 million for the Little Theatre of Shreveport;
  • $1.1 million for the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame & Museum in Houma;
  • $1.8 million for a multi-purpose vocational center and shelter in Tangipahoa Parish;
  • $2.6 million for the Algiers Development District;
  • $2 million for the New Orleans Music Hall of Fame;
  • $2.4 million for YMCA facilities in Orleans and East Baton Rouge parishes;
  • $2.3 million for multi-purpose facilities in Franklin and East Baton Rouge parishes;
  • $5.4 million for the Forts Randolph and Buhlow Historic Site;

            Several million in additional funding was approved for local fire districts, police departments, municipal buildings, and sheriffs’ offices, bringing the cost of local pork projects to more than half-a-billion dollars, easily surpassing the $310 million in budget reductions to higher education.

            In the wake of such a bleak financial future currently being faced by the state, the obvious question is who would vote for such reckless spending? Try 86 of 105 House members and 35 of 39 Senators on HB-2. On HB-76 (the Supplemental Spending Bill), the count was 88 House members in favor and 37 Senators. In fact, it would be easier to name those who voted against the bills. Those figures are seven nays in the house for HB-2 and zero in the Senate. Zero was also the number of votes against HB-76 in both chambers though there were some notable absentees.

            House members voting against HB-2 were Jerry Gisclair of LaRose, Juan LaFonta of New Orleans, Rogers Pope of Denham Springs, Clifton Richardson of Baton Rouge, John Schroder of Abita Springs, M.S. “Mert” Smiley of Port Vincent, Mack “Bodi” White of Denham Springs.

            Absent House members or those not voting included Elton Aubert of Vacherie, Jared Brossett of New Orleans, Timothy Burns of Mandeville, Billy Chandler of Dry Prong, Gordon Dove of Houma, James Fannin of Jonesboro, A.B. Franklin of Lake Charles, John LaBruzzo of Metairie, Joseph Lopinto of Metairie, Rickey Nowlin of Natchitoches, Joel Robideaux of Lafayette and Karen St. Germain of Plaquemine.

            Senate members who apparently were too busy to vote on the second biggest spending bill on the final day of the session included Jack Donahue of Mandeville, Dale Erdy of Livingston, Robert Kostelka of Monroe and Jean-Paul Morrell of New Orleans.

            House absentees on the vote on HB-76 were James Armes of Leesville, Dove, Noble Ellington of Winnsboro, Rickey Hardy of Lafayette, Lowell Hazel of Pineville, Nita Rusich Hutter of Chalmette, Charles “Chuck” Kleckley of Lake Charles, LaBruzzo, H. Bernard LeBas of Ville Platte, Nickie Monica of LaPlace, J. Kevin Pearson of Slidell, Erich Ponti of Baton Rouge, Gary Smith of Norco, Ricky Templet of Gretna, and Ernest Wooton of Belle Chasse.

            Only two senators did not vote up or down on HB-76. They were Daniel Martiny of Metairie and Joe McPherson of Woodworth.

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