State Capitol

The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Louisiana State Bond Commission Jan. 31 approved up to $350 million in state borrowing.

The bond sales will raise money for construction and coastal restoration projects previously approved by lawmakers.  

Thursday’s Bond Commission meeting was the first since the legislature elected new leaders, though no legislators asked questions about the state bond issue.

State Treasurer John Schroder, who chairs the commission, also didn’t object to approving the bonds, though he suggested more conversations about the state’s debt level should be forthcoming.

Louisiana’s per-capita public debt is above the national average, and Schroder said Louisiana’s high level of debt harms its credit rating. Last summer, he said the state will spend nearly $5 billion on capital construction over the next 20 years, including $1.2 billion for non-state projects.

The commission also approved a $567,000 budgetary loan by the Tensas Parish Police Jury. Though such loans routinely are approved, Schroder says lawmakers should take a closer look at the practice.

“They’re making loans in a lot of cases to pay their overhead, which in my opinion is dangerous,” Schroder said.

State Sen. Bodi White, a Central Republican, also raised concerns about whether towns and cities were getting over-leveraged.

Also on Thursday, the speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives named the chairmen for the committees that handle taxes and spending.

Rep. Jerome Zeringue, a Houma Republican, will chair the Appropriations Committee. Bills that call for spending state revenue must get through this committee.

Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, will chair Ways and Means, which is responsible for tax policy.

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