Brown hoping CARES money leads to progress for new bridge

Staff Report

Fiscal matters will top the agenda for the 2021 Regular Legislative Session that began Monday, but discussion on revenue will extend beyond the state cash flow. 

Use of the revenue the state receives as part of the $1.9 trillion CARES Act funding will lead to plenty of debate before the session closes June 10. State Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, says some of the state money should go toward one of the biggest challenges for the Greater Baton Rouge Metropolitan Region.

State Rep. Chad Brown

“Naturally, in my area, I’d like to see use some of that money to gain steam and progress on at least the funding toward a new bridge,” he said. “Everyone knows that’s the key obstacle to get the ball moving further for the bridge.”

Members of the multi-parish Capitol Area Road and Bridge District want Gov. John Bel Edwards and state lawmakers to appropriate and direct the allocation of the funds for the planning, specifications and full funding of a bridge that would connect La. 1 along the Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes with La. 30 along the St. Gabriel/Baton Rouge corridor.

The proposed project carries an estimated $1 billion price tag.

Congressman Garret Graves recently pegged the bridge project as his biggest priority on the multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure bill in the planning phase in Congress.

Graves met with President Joe Biden on Monday at the White House, but Biden did not specify which road projects would get top priority.

While a long list of road projects will go before lawmakers, Brown emphasized what they must avoid.

He does not want the money to go toward recurring expense, a move synonymous Bobby Jindal’s administration that led to deep deficits by 2016.

“We don’t want to revisit the sins of the past that hit us so hard,” he said. “The good news is that Gov. Edwards and the legislative leadership are in agreement that we don’t need to spend the dollars on those recurring expenses. Those were unwise budgetary decisions that led us down the road to the fiscal cliff.”

On that note, any tax reform should be revenue neutral, Brown said.

“To go that direction would lead us to the same mistakes of the past,” he said.