BATON ROUGE - What might have been a routine bond commission meeting to vote yes or no on whether to issue bonds on a variety of capital projects, instead turned to a discussion and action toward a comprehensive review of how the state finances capital projects.
Up to now, some members of the commission say they meet, hear requests for bonds to pay for construction, then vote, knowing there is a constitutional limit on debt equal to 6-percent of the state's estimated revenue in any given year. Each meeting and batch of requests is isolated from the rest, and the debt limit changes with each year's revenue.
"We shouldn't piecemeal this or patch it together year after year," said Speaker of the House, Chuck Kleckley R- Lake Charles. "We really do need to take a comprehensive look at how we finance our state's capital construction now and into the future. We need to be prudent and diligent and plan ahead; it's important to all our citizens."
Rather than review each bond request in isolation, fellow commission member Rep. Jim Fannin, R- Jonesboro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, moved to create an executive committee to review and recommend comprehensive reform regarding how the state manages its debt and construction needs.
"When we have a date planned to sell bonds and then learn at the last minute we are about to exceed the debt limit, that tells me we did not have the best process," said Fannin. "We need more people involved in determining our construction needs and our debt limit early on."
Also on the commission is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Joel Robideaux, R - Lafayette.
"We have projects underway right now, and we need to pay for them, so the executive committee is going to have to deal with that first," said Robideaux, "Then they are going to have to look into the future and come up with a long-range plan to time our debt with our construction needs."
Members of the executive committee are the House Speaker, Senate President John Alario, State Treasurer John Kennedy, the Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.