BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Thursday he's been unable to do much maintenance or upkeep of Louisiana's state parks with his budget in recent years.
Dardenne said Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration and lawmakers have shifted so much money from a repair fund into park system general operations that he cannot afford to take care of the cabins and amenities that bring in money for the state.
The fund is filled with park admission and rental fees.
Jindal wants to use $9 million from the maintenance fund for park operations in the budget for the coming 2013-14 year, according to Dardenne.
Dardenne said that would drain the fund, leaving him unable to repair and reopen cabins at Fontainebleau State Park, a St. Tammany Parish park heavily damaged by Hurricane Isaac.
"We have these magnificent state parks. They're our facilities. They need to be maintained. Air conditioners break, swimming pool pumps break. Maintenance is needed. Roads need to be repaired," Dardenne told the House Appropriations Committee.
The Republican lieutenant governor said $25 million has been siphoned from the maintenance fund for operations over the last five years, since the Jindal administration has been in office.
Michael DiResto, a spokesman for Jindal's Division of Administration, said the park maintenance fund has had money left over in it each year, which he said "was available and could have been used for repairs."
DiResto said the administration is working with Dardenne to pay for park repair needs through the state's construction budget, which is funded with borrowed money paid off over time with interest.
The Appropriations Committee is combing through Jindal's $24.8 billion budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The lieutenant governor oversees the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
Dardenne said the governor's budget assumes the state parks will bring in more revenue than the lieutenant governor thinks he'll get from park fees and rentals, because he won't have revenue from Fontainebleau cabins, which he called a "cash cow."
Lawmakers said they were concerned about draining the park maintenance fund.
Appropriations Chairman Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, said he visited Jimmie Davis State Park in Jackson Parish within the last month.
"You can certainly see a lot of wear and tear. It's nothing probably that paint wouldn't take care of. It's troubling me that we're taking our maintenance fund and using it other places," Fannin said.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.