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If You're Not Part of the Solution, Then We'll Cut Your Pay

Mark Carroll

A constitutional amendment seeks more cuts to deal with state budget shortfalls – cuts to state worker paychecks.

“This adds a level of personal responsibility on every employee of the state and every division head, which is: if you don’t help us balance the budget, it’s a one-percent cut to the end of that fiscal year,” Ascension Parish Rep. Tony Bacala said, explaining his bill to the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday.

He said he expects this would give lawmakers some leverage with department heads who claim there’s nothing more they can cut.

“Either you find me some places you can cut money in your budget, or you may see everybody in your department – including you – have your salary reduced by one percent.”

The freshman Republican was part of the two-dozen or so House members resisting all revenue-raising measures during the special session.

“People are expecting us to do something different than what we’ve always done before, and this, I think, sends a clear message that we get what is expected of us,” Bacala stated.

But Houma Rep. Jerome Zeringue said he hears a different message from the bill.

“It sends a message that if there’s a problem -- a deficit -- it must be the state workers or the state government that is the problem.”

Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger suggested this was not a winning strategy.

“You don’t see an NFL football team spending less money on football players when they go 2 and 14,” Leger said. “They actually invest in areas that will improve that, and so the answer is not always a reduction.”

As originally drafted, the bill also prohibited filling any vacancies when there’s a budget shortfall. That got Stonewall Rep. Larry Bagley wondering if the bill includes state universities and those they employ..

“What if Les Miles gets fired?” Bagley asked. “Does that mean we can’t fire a football coach?”

Bacala said the bill’s wording allows exceptions for “essential personnel”.

“The governor can decide if we replace the coach or not,” Bacala insisted.

The provision prohibiting filling vacancies was amended out, while the rest of the measure was approved. It’s now headed to the House floor where it must get a two-thirds majority vote of approval to advance to the Senate.