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Mar 11, 2013 7:40 PM by Chris Welty

Commission Questions if Jindal Administration Can Use 'Protected' Funds

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Commission claims the Jindal administration has taken money from a program which transforms decommissioned oil and gas rigs into reefs.

The artificial reef program provides habitat to many of Louisiana's coastal fisheries. According to the commission, since 2010, the Jindal Administration has taken 45-million dollars from the Artificial Reef Fund.

Since 2010, the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission says the Governors Office has dipped into the reef fund to fill budget shortfalls. Wildlife and Fisheries Commission Members question whether that's legal.

"There needs to be some money in that fund to maintain what we already have," said Stephen Sagrera.

The issue is the money is being transferred from a constitutionally protected fund to one that isn't protected. Bringing up the question, can the state use the money?

"It is legal what they're doing. This is the only one that I'm aware of that's a gray area where the money is donated to a constitutionally protected fund before it's transferred," said Sagrera.

Representative Joe Harrison says, "it's unfortunate, but we have an administration who has shown a pattern of disregard for both our Louisiana constitution and state statute. The people voted to dedicate these funds to the protection of our offshore fisheries." He goes onto say, "No one individual, not even the governor has the power or the right to take these funds away."

The Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is seeking legal advice and if necessary will bring this issue to court to find out if the money is still constitutionally protected after it is transferred into another account.

The Commissioner of Administration for the state tells us the Jindal administration will work to provide funding for ongoing projects, but they add they have a responsibility to protect higher ed and healthcare when excess funds are available elsewhere.

Chris Welty
cwelty@katctv.com

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