Lawmakers defend security upgrades
BATON ROUGE- Lawmakers believe a $4.8 million upgrade to security at the Capitol was worth it, despite the state's $1.6 billion dollar deficit.
State Sen. Bodi White (R- Central) said arguing about the system and the budget is like comparing "apples to oranges."
White championed the project when he was the chair of the Joint Committee on Homeland Security. The project erected hundreds of poles around the perimeter of the building along with gates at the entrances and exits of the parking lots that raise and lower out of the ground. The poles and gates are able to withstand a vehicle ramming into them.
Monday, Rep. Paul Hollis got his car snared by one of the mechanisms. The accident sent him to the hospital with a broken hand.
White said the upgrades are meant to protect the Capitol from "car bombs" and pointed out that state and federal buildings across the country have been beefing up security since the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Arguably, the most significant security breach at the Capitol happened in 1970 when a bomb went off in the Senate chamber.
White pointed out that the funding for the project does not come from the same funds used to fill the budget deficit. When the state upgrades or repairs its buildings, the money is borrowed. This means it doesn't come from taxes, although taxpayers do eventually pay the debt.
There is a yearly limit for how much the state is allowed to borrow. Typically, projects are forced to wait to get funding. In the case of the Capitol security project, it took eight years.
The borrowed money can't be used to fill the budget hole because the budget is only allowed to rely on taxes and fees.