Lawmakers propose restructuring La. budget process
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Conservative House lawmakers who have been at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal over budgeting tactics proposed Tuesday to rewrite the laws governing how the state estimates and spends its money and how the annual budget is crafted.
The package of bills unveiled by the mainly Republican group, calling itself the Budget Reform Coalition, would limit what dollars lawmakers and the governor could use to pay for ongoing programs and services. It also would set up a detailed timeline for handling the budget so that lawmakers couldn't pull it together in the final hours of a legislative session.
Many of the measures would rewrite constitutional provisions, making them tougher to pass in the legislative session that begins in April. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote of lawmakers and support from voters at a statewide election.
Rep. Brett Geymann, chairman of the coalition, said the proposals were designed to fix a broken budget process that he blames for causing repeated and devastating rounds of cuts to health care programs and public colleges.
"We believe these bills will change the ways we do things for the best," Geymann, R-Lake Charles, said.
Jindal hasn't said whether he'll support the proposals. His spokesman, Sean Lansing, said the Republican governor will consider the legislation and the administration has had "good discussions" with budget coalition leaders.
However, Jindal has previously said changes proposed by the House conservatives would force deeper cuts to critical services, a position echoed by Senate leaders whose support would be needed to make any changes to the budget process.
Lawmakers in the budget coalition, which has about 30 members, say scrounging up one-time sources of cash from land sales and legal settlements to pay for continuing programs, as Jindal has done, only creates new budget shortfalls when those dollars fall away in the next fiscal year — or don't pan out as expected.
But the conservative House members have been unsuccessful in making changes as the budget moves through the legislative session, with the Senate strongly supporting Jindal's recommendations each year.
As Jindal proposes redesigning Louisiana's tax code, budget coalition leader Rep. Lance Harris said lawmakers first must change how they spend the state's money.
"We keep pouring water into our bucket year after year, but it's clear now that there is a hole in our bucket," Harris, R-Alexandria, said in a statement. "Before we make changes to where we get the water, it would make a whole lot of sense to fix the bucket first."
The proposals from the Budget Reform Coalition, included in seven bills, would:
—Ban the spending of dollars that are tied to something that hasn't yet happened, like a property sale or an expected insurance settlement.
—Require the state's income forecasting panel to determine which dollars are expected to appear year after year. Lawmakers would be limited in how they could spend one-time money, and they wouldn't be able to spend dollars not recognized by the Revenue Estimating Conference.
—Set more detailed timelines for when the House and Senate must wrap up their work on spending plans, pushing the deadlines about two weeks earlier in a legislative session.
—Require more scrutiny of dollars that are earmarked to programs required by state law or constitution. If higher education and health care are proposed for cuts, spending from the earmarked funds would be split into a second piece of legislation, so lawmakers could decide if they want to reverse some of the obligations, to protect health care and colleges.
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.