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First Cuts Are the Deepest

Mark Carroll

“Rainy Day – that’s really all that divides us. It should be the last thing we do, not the first thing we look at.”

House leaders made a strategic decision Friday to first hear the budget-cutting bill that uses none of the Rainy Day Fund.

“In days ahead, we believe we’re going to need those Rainy Day funds – may need them all,” explained Baton Rouge Republican Rick Edmonds, one of the bill’s authors. “This is doable, and allows us to hold onto these savings until we get to even a more difficult time, after we walk into the regular session in April.”

But Democrat and Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger reminded him that shouldn’t be the issue.

“You’re aware that our job is to get from here to June 30th, correct?”

Edmonds, and his co-author, Prairieville Republican Tony Bacala, explained their bill cuts five percent or less from every state agency.

“We’ve taken the most conservative number,” Edmonds assured the body.

Yet one of those numbers got under Baton Rouge Democrat Pat Smith’s skin.

“You have to look at the impact,” she remonstrated with Edmonds. “And in education, if you take a million dollars from testing right now, when the tests are getting ready to begin…Why would you do that?”

“We’re under the assumption of those numbers that there are…” Edmonds began.

“Assumption!” Smith exclaimed.

“…That there are still enough funds available for them to perform the remainder of the year,” Edmonds finished.

The bill claims to save $60-million by eliminating 1750 state worker positions that are allegedly unfilled, and cut deeply into health care, including hemodialysis and hospice services, and pediatric day care. It left Coastal Protection and the Attorney General’s office whole.

New Orleans Democrat John Bagneris took to the floor to fume.

“I’m tired of hearing people say that ‘We didn’t cause this deficit,’ but a lot of you were here when Bobby Jindal was spending money like a drunken sailor. And y’all wrote it off,” he admonished House members. “Stop talking about the numbers, ‘cause we know every figure has a person behind it.! All of you up there saying, ‘I assume, I assume’? You know what happens when you assume.”

More than 20 amendments to the bill were proposed, which displeased Bacala.

“Let’s quit looking for the perfect bill,” he urged. “It doesn’t exist.”

After their late lunch break, the House shelved H.B.8, the “no rainy day” bill, and moved on to H.B.3, Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry’s version, which uses 74-million rainy day dollars.