A stalemate between lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration over the state's annual construction budget bill eased Monday, when a House committee agreed to move ahead with the bill, but haggling continues over the financing plans.



A stalemate between lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration over the state's annual construction budget bill eased Monday, when a House committee agreed to move ahead with the bill, but haggling continues over the financing plans.

The House Ways and Means Committee sent the bill, which charts $4.5 billion in multiyear spending plans, to the full House for debate, without objection.

"This is a long way from being done," said Rep. Hunter Greene, chairman of the committee.

Greene, R-Baton Rouge, pulled the legislation from consideration by his committee last week, over complaints about the way the governor's office submitted the bill - with more money in projects vying for dollars than there is money to spend.

Greene said those issues remained but that he continues to negotiate with the Jindal administration.

Louisiana has a cap on annual borrowing that will limit spending on construction projects to an estimated $320 million in the upcoming 2010-11 year that begins July 1, money that will cover ongoing projects, items given lines of credit in previous years and new projects.

The construction budget known as the "capital outlay" bill submitted by the Jindal administration included $10 million more in projects than there is borrowing capacity, and that was before lawmakers added new ones. Greene said the House committee added $15 million more in lawmakers' requested projects Monday.

Davis told lawmakers in a previous hearing that the bill allows wiggle room in case some projects can't move as quickly as expected or some get other sources of funding and don't need as much state cash upfront. For example, the planned New Orleans public hospital could soon get expected federal funding and need less money from the state, she said.

Greene said lawmakers want the bill to include only projects that will get funded, so lawmakers will know if they get a project in the bill, it will get money.

"We would like to have a 'what you see is what you get' bill," Greene said. "We're not going to have this way over-appropriated where we don't know what's going to get funded. I don't want that false hope."

Requests for the construction budget far exceed the dollars available every year.

The multiyear budget includes mostly projects approved in past years by lawmakers that already are in line for borrowing dollars and those that have direct streams of cash funding, like road and bridge repairs. Much of the bill outlines spending of federal money and state fees or taxes dedicated to specific projects like road improvements.