Louisiana at Odds Over Park Funds Use
Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Thursday (March 14) he’s been unable to do much maintenance or upkeep of Louisiana’s state parks with his budget in recent years, The Associated Press reported.
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.