BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — About $88 million expected for this year's state budget hasn't been received yet by the treasurer's office for spending, lawmakers were told Friday.
Members of the joint House and Senate budget committee have expressed concerns the state will have another shortfall before the fiscal year ends June 30 and sought an update on where things stand.
The lacking funds come from property sales, FEMA reimbursements, legal settlements and fund transfers anticipated by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration and plugged into ongoing services, like health care programs.
Barry Dusse, director of the governor's Office of Planning and Budget, said the Jindal administration expects all of the lacking $88 million to materialize in the state treasury before year's end.
"We're expecting those moneys in," Dusse told lawmakers.
The figure has dropped from a month earlier, when a Legislative Fiscal Office analysis pegged the gap at more than $278 million.
If all the anticipated dollars don't show up, lawmakers could be scrambling to plug another budget gap in the current 2012-13 fiscal year when they return for their legislative session in April.
Dusse said $10 million in FEMA reimbursements are available to receive from the federal government at any time, an $11 million housing fund transfer is expected in May and $1 million from a tourism promotion fund is expected in April.
Another $10 million from the lease of the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital to a private operator is expected to roll in next month when the final paperwork is signed, he said.
The largest slice of money that hasn't arrived for spending is $56 million tied to a set of anticipated legal settlements with insurance companies. Lawmakers questioned whether those negotiations will be wrapped up in time for the dollars to be spent this year.
"Do we have final judgments?" asked Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans.
"No, we're in negotiations," Dusse replied.
"So, how do we count it?" Murray said.
Dusse said the administration feels strongly the dollars will appear on time, but the committee asked for further details to be provided to the Legislative Fiscal Office about the ongoing negotiations.
"I'm a lawyer. I sue people, too. I wish I could count the money like you all do," Murray said.
Other questions involved the use of the NOAH money, which Dusse acknowledged requires additional legislation to be passed by lawmakers.
Similar types of funding are anticipated in Jindal's budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which has yet to be considered by lawmakers.
A group of conservative House Republicans, called the "fiscal hawks," have criticized using such piecemeal funding to pay for ongoing programs. They've blamed it for creating continued budget shortfalls when the dollars don't materialize or fall away after one year.
Jindal administration leaders and a majority of lawmakers have disagreed, saying the financing is preferable to deeper budget cuts to education and health care.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
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.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.