The region facing the mega-reconstruction is the region graded lowest in the nation for its capacity in managing infrastructure. Louisiana and Mississippi received grades of C+. For Alabama, the grade was D. Moreover, the states are starting way behind. In all three states, officials say that they had postponed at least half of needed maintenance for at least the last four years. Deferred maintenance in Louisiana exceeds $3.8 billion. In Mississippi, it’s $3.9 billion, and in Alabama, the total is $2.9 billion. Why? Officials in each state claim “lack of resources,” although the three states rank among the lowest in tax burden.
But even if the money began to flow, the infrastructure management systems in each of these states lags behind those of the nation’s highest-performing states. Alabama does not have a capital plan. In Louisiana, the plan is heavily influenced by political factors, and the Department of Transportation and Development has not implemented a comprehensive maintenance and management system.
So post-Katrina resources will begin flowing to states that already have a substantial infrastructure backlog. All three states rank below the national average in capacity to manage infrastructure (and Alabama was ranked 50th). What is their capacity to handle the enormous influx of funds? And, down the road, how can taxpayers be assured that the new facilities that are built with scarce tax dollars from around the nation will be maintained properly?