Gentilly Girl- a part of the 99%

July 20, 2006

Slush Funds vs. New Ideas

Filed under: Louisiana — Tags: — Morwen Madrigal @ 3:46 pm

In today’s Advocate I read a commentary of Meemaw’s lameness in weeding the Pork out of this year’s State Budget. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

Many of the items that once were part of urban and rural “development” slush funds are in the state’s general operating budget.

The checks flow to programs or local governments, even nonprofit organizations closely linked to individual legislators. The latter are today’s state-of-the-art patronage machines, employing friends, spouses or relatives of legislators in guise of helping the downtrodden.

It’s a terrible system, so the governor’s defense of it deserves to be quoted at length:

“While I welcome comments regarding suggested items for veto in the state budget, I will not abandon our local communities who are in need of fire protection, sewer and water systems and additional resources for our children and the elderly. These communities have been either impacted by the storm or have served as caretaker parishes for our citizens.

“The buck stops with me! My firm position is that accountability will continue to be our focus, not a wholesale abandonment of our local communities.”

Now, I do believe that rural communities need amenities, they need fairs and such to heighten sense of community and provide a boost to their revenue streams, but in Louisiana post-Katrina/Rita, we need to be prioritizing spending to get this state back up and running. The state’s revenue has been severely impacted by the effects of last Fall. We cannot count all this FEMA, CDBG and levee monies as revenue. They are not income, but grants.

At this point in time,the state doesn’t have the luxury of finding a fish rodeo or local festivals with state funds. It will take years to get southern LA back up and running so as to fill the state’s coffers. Then and only then, can I see funding for these kinds of projects.

The southern part of the state is the main economic engine for the state. This engine produces revenue for the state. If the revenue stream stays small, it doesn’t matter how many fishing rodeos and festivals get financed: You need tourism to actually make them profitable, and we are hurtin’ units when it comes to that. These types of projects, though often laudable, will not add to, or enrich the rural communities for which they are offered as a boon for their community.

My thought is that instead of doling out $30M this year (and next year, and the next) for slush projects, these small communities would be better served now by building wireless access systems for the Present. Once the southern part of the state is coming back into their own, other forms of enrichments for small communities can then be funded.
I love local fairs and festivals. They are an illustration, a cultural expression, of the communities that create them, but wrongly financed at a time when the state is in crisis will just be pouring taxpayer dollars down the drain. These little communities will see no benefit from this. We need a more workable plan.

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