Friday, October 27, 2006
By Raymond Lalonde
With very little fanfare, the so-called "legislative slush fund," with which the governor is able to reward legislators with money for special projects in return for votes on certain issues - often taxes - was discontinued.
Ha, ha! If you believe that I've got some beachfront property in Kansas for sale.
Actually, the "slush fund" was broken up into hundreds of individual line items and inserted directly into the appropriation bill. The "New and Improved Slush Fund" lists 260 appropriations totaling $30 million dollars, none of which are in any way connected to the capital outlay bill, and few - if any - can be considered a state responsibility. Examples include a $55,000 allocation to a high school alumni association. Did other alumni associations get proportionate shares? Can anyone tell me what or who "RiZ Up Louisiana" (no, I didn't misspell it) is and how they will spend their $100,000 appropriation?
Since many of these appropriations go to private organizations, how does the state auditor follow up on these expenditures? Are their budgets submitted to the Legislative Budget Committee?
Who's on the payroll? Does the organization have an executive director? How much is that person paid? These are taxpayer dollars, and taxpayers deserve answers.
Probably some of the above projects have great merit, but inserting them into the appropriation bill without a full public hearing is not the way to instill confidence in our state government.
Private, non-profit organizations and local government projects should not be funded with state taxpayers' dollars. The state should reduce its taxes and allow local governments to generate more of their own revenue. Local taxes approved by local voters funding local projects would increase accountability. Projects that are deemed to be joint state and local responsibilities need to be funded as such and evaluated in the hearings of the appropriation bill.
If you are concerned about our education system, the availability of health care and the condition of our roads, remember: $30 million of your state tax dollars was allocated to various private agencies and local projects whose value to "le bien de l'état" - the good of the state - was never properly aired. Demand answers from those who voted for this spending.
It's time to really flush the slush fund.