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"No Rest" As Next Budget Proposal Presented

“Unfortunately there’s no rest for the weary,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told the Joint Budget Committee Thursday.  “We start today looking at the challenges we face for the next fiscal year.”

Just one day after ending a special session to address the shortfall in the current budget, Dardenne was presenting the governor’s proposal for the next budget.

“To maintain our level of service is $9.9-billion. The forecast from the Revenue Estimating Conference is for $9.4-billion in State General Fund, so you see a shortfall of $440-million,” Dardenne told the legislative money panels.

“If the revenue forecast does not improve, and if there’s no revenue generated in the regular session, the proposal would be to cut everybody two percent.”

The advantage of giving the presentation right after the special session was that members of the Joint Budget Committee were still at the Capitol. The disadvantage was those members displeased with the special session results were still focused on shrinking government.

For example, Representative Tony Bacala (R-Prairieville), who had come up with a plan to allegedly save $105-million through unfilled state jobs, was stuck on using that to trim the state’s costs for health care.

“489 vacancies existing today, and now they show a request for 56 new positions?” Bacala asked. “That would be adding about 10% to the number of people currently employed by Louisiana Department of Health!”

Covington Representative John Schroder was still trying to allocate blame for the recurrent shortfalls: first by taking aim at the Revenue Estimating Conference, or –failing that – by pointing at the administration.

“Nine years in a row our forecast is off,” Schroder complained. “So we’re forecasting a General Fund of $9.4-billion and our needs are $9.9-billion. But why not start at nine billion and leave some room for error?”

“From a budget standpoint it makes a lot of sense,” Dardenne replied, “Although I’ve never seen a legislature that didn’t want to spend every nickel that was available to it.”

Schroder didn’t care for that response.

“I think the discipline ought to start with the executive branch, because it’s your budget.”