BATON ROUGE, La.— Despite concerns about the financing arrangement, a state money panel — backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration — agreed Tuesday to the $45 million construction of a new community college campus in Monroe.
The borrowing plan for the Delta Community College campus was approved without objection by the State Bond Commission.
That approval came after several members of the panel, including Jindal’s top budget crafter, Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, said they didn’t like that the college construction skirted the traditional state construction process, called “capital outlay.”
“I think that’s a backward process,” said Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, a member of the Bond Commission, who complained about the financing plans but didn’t object to their approval.
“It puts us in a very awkward position,” Davis told Joe May, head of the state Community and Technical College System.
Davis said the state needs to reconsider financing projects outside of the capital outlay process, which prioritizes projects based on recommendations of both the governor and the Legislature. But she supported the community college construction project anyway.
Rep. Jim Fannin, a member of the Bond Commission and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said a new direction was needed for financing construction projects, but he pushed for approval of the college, which will be built in his area of the state.
“I hope we don’t get caught up today into wanting to start a new direction,” said Fannin, D-Jonesboro.
“It is a good time to start a new direction, after this one,” he said.
Similar community colleges were built with this type of borrowing outside the capital outlay process, including colleges in Bossier Parish and Baton Rouge, said Whit Kling, director of the Bond Commission.
Sen. John Alario, D-Westwego, said the northeast Louisiana area that houses the college has a large concentration of poor residents and needs more investments in the skills training that a community college can provide.
Rep. Karen Carter Peterson said she keeps hearing about the fresh start of a new administration. “You’re telling me it begins tomorrow, and I’m confused. I thought it began last week? Why are we making exceptions today?” said Peterson, D-New Orleans, who later didn’t object to approval of the funding.
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