BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republican lawmakers seeking to stop the use of patchwork financing in next year's budget lost a legal battle Wednesday in their bid to keep the Legislature from plugging that money into operating expenses.
A Baton Rouge judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by two Jefferson Parish lawmakers asking to block the use of money from property sales, legal settlements and other one-time items sought by Gov. Bobby Jindal to balance the 2013-14 operating budget.
Republican Reps. Kirk Talbot and Cameron Henry claimed it is unconstitutional to use one-time money to pay for ongoing programs and services.
Judge Tim Kelley sided with several arguments made by lawyers for the Jindal administration and the state, who defended the budget tactics as constitutional.
The judge also said he couldn't grant injunctive relief because Jindal's top budget adviser, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, certified in an affidavit that an injunction could create a deficit in the state budget. He said state law prohibits him from issuing a ruling that would cause a state agency deficit.
Lawyer Kyle Keegan, representing Talbot and Henry, expects to appeal the ruling.
The lawsuit is part of an ongoing dispute between conservative House Republicans nicknamed the "fiscal hawks" and the GOP governor over Jindal's approach to crafting the budget. The governor's proposals traditionally form the base of each year's budget.
The fiscal hawks say it's irresponsible to use money that isn't certain to appear year after year and claim it causes perpetual budget shortfalls. Jindal says removing the money would force unnecessary cuts to higher education and health care services.