For the second time, the state Revenue Estimating Conference has rejected an increased budget forecast for this fiscal year and next.
Republican Speaker of the House Taylor Barras was the only member of the four person panel to reject economists' projections to increase the state's budget by $125 million for the current fiscal year.
Without the panels approval, funding is on hold for sheriffs, corrections, and juvenile justice programs. Also at risk is the Governor’s plan to institute a teacher pay raise next year.
The panel could meet again, but Jay Dardenne, Commissioner of Administration, says that isn’t likely to happen.
“If the speaker had not attended I would have kept calling meetings but he spoke today and he was able to state his position, there’s no reason to call another meeting,” says Dardenne.
Representative Barras was not present at last month’s meeting. Representative Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) was there in his place and also voted against the increase.
Governor John Bel Edwards’ administration has accused Speaker Barras and Republican leaders in the House of obstructing the process, holding up the surplus money for political reasons. Barras says he's not playing political games, but using extra caution when it comes to determining state spending.
The panel responsible for estimating how much income Louisiana can expect to bring in is meeting Monday morning. State economists project Louisiana’s revenue will be higher than anticipated this year and next, but Republican leaders in the House aren’t so sure.
It’s the latest case of friction between republican leaders in the House and the Democratic Governor.
Last month, the four-members of the Revenue Estimating Conference couldn’t reach unanimous agreement to approve a budget forecast that estimates the state would bring in more revenue than previously thought.
The one hold-out vote came from Republican State Representative Cameron Henry, who was sitting in for Speaker of the House Taylor Barras.
Henry says there’s too much volatility in Louisiana’s economy to give the Governor and the Legislature permission to spend more money.
Governor John Bel Edwards accused Henry and Barras of playing politics.
On the line is about $40 million, most of which would go to sheriffs, corrections and juvenile justice. Next year’s estimated surplus of nearly $200 million is also meant to help fund teacher pay raises, a top priority of Governor Edwards’ next year.
But if the REC doesn’t approve the increased forecast by the end of the month, that plan could be jeopardized.