The House of Representatives moved this morning to send the capital outlay bill, which serves as the state’s primary construction budget, to the Senate for consideration. Filed under the traditional instrument number of HB2 and authored by Ways and Means Chairman Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, the legislation contained more than $3.9 billion in projects to be addressed.
Despite the large financial figure attached to the bill, the instrument’s author pointed out that few items will be actually getting underway in the near future.
“Keep in mind that the $3.9 billion includes a lot of projects, some of which are five years out,” Abramson said. “So really what the bill is about $700 million to $800 million in projects for next year.”
Abramson added the House took a more responsible approach to capital outlay this term than in the past. “The good news is that we’ve downsized capital outlay in the last four years to where it matches up with what we can afford,” he said. “I think it is a fantastic place to be.”
With the upper chamber set to take up the bill, some senators believe there is still room for changes to be made.
“Most of the time, House members try to get in as many projects as they can,” said Agriculture Chairman Francis Thompson, D-Delhi. “When it comes over here, Senate members have make sure that nothing is left out.”
Thompson knows the process well, having served in the Legislature since 1975 and secured countless projects for his district situated in the state’s northeastern corner. “I try to get something for all of the communities in my area,” he said. “But you can’t be greedy, because lawmakers can see that right away.”
Echoing Abramson’s comments, Thompson noted that just because a particular item is placed in the bill, it doesn’t mean that residents are likely to see work starting anytime soon.
“A good project will take three years,” he said. “A mediocre project may take six.”
After being approved on a 92-0 vote by the House, the measure next heads to the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee for consideration. With not a lot of controversy surrounding the bill, Abramson is hoping to see a smooth path to final passage. “Based on where we stand now, I think it will be an easy one,” he said. “I’ve been surprised before, but I’m not expecting it.”
Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon on Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session. The report is also available to subscribers at LaPolitics.com.