On March 9, the U. S. House of Representatives passed a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package that includes $17.5 million for community projects in Louisiana’s Second Congressional District along with $14 million for two sewer and water management projects in New Orleans, resulting in a total of $31.5 million in direct community funding for the District.
The Senate passed the bill the day after the House, and it is now awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature.
This marks the first time in more than a decade that discretionary spending or “earmarks” were included in a federal budget. The move away from the hyper-local pork-barrel spending can be traced back to Pres. Barack Obama, who, during his 2011 State of the Union speech, promised he would veto any bill that contained earmarks. A Republican-led Congress then solidified the move by instituting a temporary ban on earmarks. And at least one Republican, U.S. Sen., Mike Braun, R-Ind., tried to keep discretionary spending out of the current budget with last-minute an amendment to strip it of home-state earmarks, which was rejected 35-64.
Some political analysts have described this round of pork-barrel projects as gifts from President Biden to congressional Democrats who are expected to face tough re-election battles later this year and to Republicans that supported the budget.
Whatever the reason, U.S. Rep Troy Carter has excitedly announced the funding headed to the district he represents.
“I am incredibly pleased to vote for this transformational budget that includes a total $31.5 million in Community Project Funding that I know will have a profound impact on Louisiana’s Second Congressional District,” said Carter in a printed statement. “Along with investing in our critical water management infrastructure, these funds will support underserved areas and foster economic development, making a real difference in the lives of so many in our community. I am so proud to have fought for their inclusion and funding in this Congressional appropriations package. This funding announced will go directly to our community, funding critical projects that will help boost our local economy as well as improve the health, well-being, environment, and public safety for the people of southeast Louisiana.”
The Sewerage & Water Board allocations are as follows:
• $6 million to the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans for wastewater and stormwater improvements
• $8 million for the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for New Gravity Sanitary Sewer and Storm Sewer Project
The other allocations, seven projects funded at a total of $17.5 million, will provide mental health services, public health research, student services, upgrade parks, build a new public athletic venue, and more as part of the overall government funding package.
The funded projects for Louisiana’s Second Congressional District are:
• LSU Health New Orleans – $2 million for a project to learn more about the enduring effects of COVID in Louisiana and better prepare for successfully managing any future epidemic through discovery, research, and training. As one of the first places with a major COVID surge, it is important to understand what effects COVID has had on our population including health care workers and students.
• City of Baton Rouge – $1 million to create the Baton Rouge Institute for Growth and Healing After Trauma (BRIGHT), a community-based, trans-disciplinary resource and service center for trauma-healing in Baton Rouge. BRIGHT will build upon the success of several trauma-relief initiatives. It will create a center to support the health and well-being of Baton Rouge during a time of unprecedented collective trauma.
• Tulane University – $1 million to create a permanent home for an important collection that helps better understand the pathology, etiology, and epidemiology of trauma-related neurodegenerative disorders. This research is vital to understanding and treating traumatic brain injuries, including among U.S. service members. It will also help treat post-traumatic stress and other physical and psychological health concerns.
• Xavier University – $2.5 million to renovate St. Michael’s, a residence hall for first-year students. The hall is historic, having been a place of refuge for the Freedom Riders in 1963. The renovations would turn the building into a center for pre-health advising and STEM education.
• 9th Ward Stadium – $3 million to help create a public athletic venue for the 9th Ward of New Orleans. The 9th Ward Stadium project is a re-energized initiative that seeks to provide critically important recreational facilities for public school students throughout eastern New Orleans and which will serve as an economic catalyst for the 9th Ward community.
• City of New Orleans – $5 million for multi-modal transportation improvements along Morrison Road in New Orleans, Louisiana. Morrison Road is an important east-west major roadway that services a large part of the New Orleans East area. It directly accesses the interstate and is a major transit route in the Regional Transit Authority system and requires major improvements to enhance safety.
• Audubon Nature Institute – $3 million to renovate Woldenberg Riverfront Park in downtown New Orleans. This project would upgrade transportation and safety features for southeast Louisiana community members and millions of annual visitors. This project will revitalize this 30-year-old park and have safety, mobility, and economic benefits.
The community projects were selected after conducting comprehensive outreach to local groups and stakeholders, according to Carter.
In addition to the direct impact on the region, Carter lauds the spending bill as one that will help strengthen America.
“These funds are part of the overall government funding legislation, which delivers transformative federal investments to help lower the cost of living for working families, create American jobs, support our most vulnerable, tackle COVID-19, and support the people of Ukraine,” he said.