Louisiana bills seek funds to complete I-49 in state

| 5/31/2007

The Louisiana House has approved a pair of bills that would supply funds to complete the state’s portion of Interstate 49. A separate bill also would dedicate revenue for the project.

Sponsored by Rep. Billy Montgomery, R-Haughton, and Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, the bills share much of the same language. However, there are variations in some provisions.

Both lawmakers are working toward a compromise version that can advance through the Senate. As they passed the House, both bills call for using $15 million annually from unclaimed property funds in the state. A one-time diversion of $30 million from the state’s general fund also would be routed to the unclaimed property fund.

Unclaimed property funds are turned over to the state by businesses when the rightful private owners cannot be found.

All money would be split evenly to the north and south portions of I-49. Those stretches run north from Interstate 20 in Shreveport to the Arkansas line and south from Interstate 10 in Lafayette to the West Bank Expressway in New Orleans.

The biggest difference between the two is that Burrell’s bill – HB321 – says the money can only be spent with an appropriation by the Legislature. Montgomery’s bill – HB531 – allows the Louisiana Transportation Authority to appropriate the money as needed for construction.

Both bills would allow the money to be used to match with federal funds or be bonded for construction purposes. They are in the Senate Finance Committee.

A separate bill also is intended to route money for the completion of I-49.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Powell, R-Shreveport, the bill would pull $250 million of the state’s budget surplus to be used for building I-49 from Shreveport to the Arkansas line.

Powell’s bill – HB789 – is in the House Appropriations Committee.