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“We Don’t Really Know”: FY 2016 Budget Preview

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The Jindal administration unveils its budget proposal today for the next fiscal year. What solutions to the $1.6-billion deficit will be proposed?

“Until we see it, we don’t really know,” says Lafayette Rep. Joel Robideaux.

Even House Speaker Chuck Kleckley admits he has been kept in the dark.

“I know nothing,” Kleckley told us earlier this week. “I don’t know anything more than you know, or what I read in the press.”

What we do know is how the process will work after today’s big reveal. Though the Legislature doesn’t officially convene until April 13, the House Appropriations Committee will start sifting through the executive budget proposal—which becomes House Bill 1—in just over two weeks. They’ll call state department heads to the table to explain why, or why not, the proposed budget works.

“I cannot fight fires without firemen. I cannot conduct inspections without inspectors. And we cannot continue to take these cuts,” says Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain. He’s anticipating a $4-million reduction in the upcoming budget.

And department chiefs had better do their homework, because—as Appropriations chairman Jim Fannin warned several of them last year—he wants answers, not excuses.

“We are a budget committee. We will be asking you about your expenditures. When you come to the table, be prepared to answer those questions,” Fannin stated early in the process last session.

Fannin’s committee will comb through the budget piece-by-piece, tweaking a bit here and there. They’ll set a day for public comment on it, in late April or early May. By mid-May, the budget will move to the House floor for debate and a vote.

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee won’t just be sitting on their hands. They’ll meet weekly once the session begins, and take departmental testimony. Once they finally get the House-approved version of the budget, they’ll only have the House changes to work through, before passing House Bill 1 on to the full Senate. There it will be debated and voted on, section-by-section—sometime near Memorial Day.

So, it’s what Rep. Robideaux said at the start: “Until we see it, we don’t really know.” And that won’t be until all differences are resolved—hopefully by adjournment on June 11.