Louisiana lawmakers approve more than $1 billion in infrastructure spending, depending on federal funding

Louisiana legislators on Monday gave final approval to more than $1 billion in spending on infrastructure projects– depending on if/when the state receives money from the federal government.

In other words, they approved spending money they don’t have.

“We go as far as the dollars will get us,” Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation (DOTD) and Development, said Monday.

At a joint House and Senate committee members discussed the tentative construction budget for roads for the 2020-2021 fiscal year of $729.5 million. Of that total, only $103.2 million would come from state government. The rest is supposed to come from the federal government.

Recommended flood control projects are expected to cost more than $258.7 million; some of the costs have already been paid with the state’s share totaling roughly $39.2 million. Expected flood damage reduction benefits are worth nearly $409.3 million, according to documents distributed at the committee meeting.

DOTD listed 18 partially funded port projects expected to cost about $326.8 million. Louisiana’s funding share is roughly $114.1 million. The committee approved another $39.9 million in new transportation projects, and roughly $114.2 million worth of airport projects, for which the state’s contribution is roughly $26.1 million.

The Revenue Estimating Conference has not yet agreed on how much state government will be allowed to spend next fiscal year in light of it having a $535 million surplus last year. The state constitution allows surplus dollars to be spent on construction projects and prohibits them from being spent on general government operations.

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