Secretary of State Tom Schedler and Attorney General Jeff Landry have some similarities: both are statewide elected officials, both are Republicans, and both are frustrated with the proposed state budget. But their reasons are entirely different.
“What would you do if I gave you $5.2-million at the table right now, that you didn’t anticipate? What would you do with that? It could go to TOPS; it could go to roads. You could parlay it in Medicaid and turn it into $20-million,” Schedler told the Senate Finance Committee, saying he really hadn't wanted as big a budget as he's been given in HB 1.
“Originally, I had asked for a $75-million budget instead of $80-million, but we are now having to have a statewide election that I did not anticipate.”
Fall of 2017 was supposed to be an off year for statewide elections, but John Kennedy's election to U.S. Senator means a new election for State Treasurer, which will cost taxpayers $5-million this fall. Schedler urged committee members to consider legislation allowing appointments to fill unexpired terms to last until the next regularly scheduled statewide election.
“It’s the only way in my budget that I can save any big dollars.”
Attorney General Jeff Landry, though, wants as much money as he can get – preferably in cash, up front.
“The two things that y’all can do is to cash fund the budget into a bucket that y’all have given me budget authority for, and take more power away from the Division and giving it to you,” Landry told the senators.
Nearly 80-percent of the A.G.'s budget is funded by the state agencies for whom he does legal work, and by statutory dedications – both of which are stringently overseen by the Division of Administration. Landry says he wants the freedom to shift money from program to program.
“Right now, if we want to move money from one program to another, first we have to go to the Division, and then we have to come around and go to y’all,” Landry complained. “Take that middleman out.”
Senate Finance chair Eric LaFleur had questions about a provision the House had included in the budget bill.
“Did you also request that you put language in so that you could rollover unexpended proceeds not to the General Fund, but they stay within the A.G.’s office?” LaFleur asked. “We’ve been saying that that is very bad policy. I was just wondering why y’all suggested that that was good policy?”
“We’ve been struggling to cash-flow the agency because of the gimmicks that the Division has been employing,” the A.G. Replied. “That’s why you see that type of policy. If they wasn’t engaged in those type of shenanigans, we wouldn’t have to support bad policy.”
The Senate Finance Committee continues to work through H.B.1 this week, expecting to unveil their changes next Monday.