Louisiana legislators have agreed to reinstate funding for a significant container terminal project that the Port of New Orleans has in its plans.
This marks a reversal of a contentious choice made by House leaders, who had initially decided to remove the funding during the last moments of the legislative session, according to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.
A group of state lawmakers in a budget panel agreed to a mid-year budget adjustment requested by Governor John Bel Edwards. This change involves allocating $13.5 million for the terminal project in the town of Violet, St. Bernard Parish.
Edwards criticised the sudden budget cut, stating it conveyed a negative message to global shipping leaders. Edwards and other state officials strongly support Port NOLA’s container terminal project.
This initiative aims to boost Louisiana’s port system, which currently lags behind rivals such as the Ports of Mobile and Houston in terms of competitiveness.
The surprising reduction was just one of several alterations decided privately by legislative leaders during the hectic last day of this spring’s legislative session.
State Representative, Ray Garofalo, who represents the project’s district, mentioned that he thinks House leaders slashed the project’s funding because he didn’t support their budget proposal. Their plan involved more spending than what House conservatives preferred.
Lawmakers voted on the budget without being fully aware of its contents due to the extensive last-minute adjustments made by House leaders.
Jay Dardenne, the Commissioner of Administration, stated that utilising $13.5 million in savings to address the budget cut would “keep the project moving.” He mentioned that this action would fix the “inadvertent removal” of funds.
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, responsible for the last-minute modifications, previously minimised the impact of the cut to the port project, suggesting that funds could be easily reinstated in the following year.
“We’re grateful to Gov. Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature for their commitment to this vital economic development project that will ensure the future of Louisiana’s trade-based economy,” Port NOLA President and CEO, Brandy Christian, said on 11 August.
According to budget documents, the port has already spent $55 million on land acquisition and $6.5 million for design. The project will receive $13.5 million, which will cover the expenses of the “final design phase.” This phase involves creating plans for pump stations, highway adjustments, and various other tasks.
The Port NOLA’s container terminal project is itself a subject of controversy. St. Bernard’s local authorities and community representatives have opposed the project, expressing concerns about its effects on residents and the environment. Recently, the St. Bernard Parish district attorney took the conflict a step further, initiating a lawsuit against Port NOLA to stop the project.