2014 Legislative Preview: Jimmie davis bridge rehab part of 2014 budget

1304

Senator Barrow Peacock talks capital outlay, state budgets

Today continues a 4-part series previewing the 2014 Legislative session. Today is part 3, an interview with State Senator Barrow Peacock.

 With all eyes on the state budget, the capital outlay budget, House Bill 2, has some important items for Bossier Parish.

State Senator Barrow Peacock has secured $11 million from the Department of Transportation and Development for rehabilitation of the Jimmie Davis Bridge. Another $10 million will come from federal bridge funds.

“I’m convinced that when they’re done, it will be like a brand new bridge,” he said.

“Until they’re out there pouring concrete, take nothing for granted. But everything I’ve seen from DOTD that the money is there,” added a cautious but optimistic Peacock.

According to local DOTD official Susan Stafford, the project is planned to bid in October and work is slated to start first of 2015.

The bridge is expected to be closed for one year. Peacock did note that DOTD will install incentives in the contract to complete the bridge as quick as possible and penalties for the work not being completed on time.

The rehab include will include a new deck, structural repairs, a new paint job, and lighting. The City of Bossier City and the City of Shreveport are expected to maintain the lights.

“With the growth of south Bossier, we need the bridge to be in good shape and keep safety in mind. There will be some inconvenience, but I think we’ll all be proud of the bridge we have,” said Peacock.

As for the state’s budget, House Bill 1, that is what Peacock described as the “big ticket item” for this year’s session.

“We have to make sure the revenue coming in will be there so the programs we support can be supported,” he said.

Peacock noted the overall budget is smaller than last year — $24.9 billion as compared to $25.4 billion — while the state general fund budget has increased — $8.4 billion to $8.6 billion.

“That gives us a little more flexibility as to where money can go,” he said.

The proposed budget also includes $142 million increase for higher education, the majority of which will come from higher tuitions.

The remainder of that increased funding may come with some stipulations.

Peacock explained that the proposed Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy (WISE) fund means colleges wanting a piece of that funding will require the institutions to develop skilled workers in a field where Louisiana has a shortage.

“The WISE fund was designed to help address growing business needs of our state. So the money is there for our colleges, but it’s going to come with rules on how to use that money,” Peacock noted.

As for health care, Peacock explains that the state is in a “growing pains” stage of adapting to cuts from federal funding.

“We were cut in July 2012 by $800 million from the federal government for medicaid match. We were cut because as a state we are doing better. We are transitioning, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

When it comes to personal bills, Peacock noted Senate Bill 151, which would prohibit a minor from buying an electronic cigarette or vapor pen.

He is addressing this issue as a proactive stance, but said he knows there are instances of this being an issue at local schools such as Airline High School.

“It’s largely a preventive measure, but we are seeing some things happen in our schools — I know Airline has had some trouble with it,” Peacock said.

He encourages local residents to not only contact him, but officials around the state, about what is important to them during this session.

“It’s important that people in the state hear from Bossier and Shreveport about what is important to them. Let myself and others know what issues matter,” said Peacock.