As the legislative session comes to a close, the state may pass up an opportunity to streamline government and reduce superfluous costs at virtually no expense. Rep. Patrick Connick’s HB493 would have removed given the Louisiana State Police oversight of the Crescent City Connection police, which supervise 20 miles of bridge, ramps and roadways. The bill was killed in a Senate committee, but its contents could still be amended to a related bill.
While this measure may not seem urgent in the context of the oil spill or health care discussion, it still is an opportunity to reduce the unnecessary duplication of government services and more efficiently spend taxpayers’ money. Essentially, the CCC Division’s duties are redundant with those of state troopers deployed in the surrounding vicinities, meaning the state has different agencies performing the same job. In a period in which public education and health funding is being slashed to even a budget deficit, it is essential that we whittle down the amount of unnecessary government services and expenditures.
Currently, the Crescent City Connection Division employs over 225 people, 32 of whom are police under the oversight of the Department of Transportation and Development. The CCCD collects over $22 million annually in toll fees, which goes to subsidize the CCC and its police division. However, reports of financial mismanagement and complaints about the effectiveness and usefulness of the bridge police raise the question of whether taxpayers’ money could not be better spent.
An audit by Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot determined that the operation has lost money in each of the last five years, and that nearly half of a $61 million dollar reserve fund has been depleted. Also, the CCCD has been accused of issuing engineering consulting contracts in violation of state laws for a competitive bidding process. Furthermore, over $4 million dollars allocated to the CCCD was spent on a new “administrative complex” without prior approval from the state Legislature. If the Crescent City Connection police were considered integral to our public safety, this money would not be considered ill-spent, but more often than not, more police cars are visible sitting in the departmental lot than patrolling the bridge and surrounding areas.
Rep. Connick’s bill would have removed an unnecessary bureaucratic division, reined in supernumerary costs, and helped to streamline government. Legislators should look for an opportunity to amend its contents to a related bill before the session ends.
Giving the State Police jurisdiction over the bridge police would enable more efficient use of our tax dollars without incurring additional costs. Though toll money would continue to play a role in funding the state troopers, taxpayers will at least know that their money is not being wasted. It will be a shame if our state Legislature passes up an easy and painless opportunity to make our local government more efficient for everyone.