Last Modified: Thursday, November 29, 2012 6:20 PM
The clash between fiscal conservative lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration appears to be heating up.
Earlier this month, 19 state representatives, including state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, asked state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to rule on the constitutionality of the current state budget.
The legislators are part of a larger group known as ‘‘fiscal hawks’’ that has questioned for the past few years the budgeting process and some of the methods used by the Jindal administration to keep it balanced.
‘‘If they rule that we’re wrong, at least we know,’’ said state Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge. ‘‘At least we won’t have to keep having the same conversation back and forth every single time like we have for the past four years.’’
Added Geymann: ‘‘We said it dozens of times during session ... We strongly believe we (the state’s budget) are in violation of the Constitution.’’
The fiscal hawks have three bones of contention:
• This fiscal year’s general appropriations bill exceeded the revenue forecast by the state Revenue Estimating Committee.
• The budget was balanced, in part, on the prospective sale or lease of the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital. The budget projected that would result in a $35 million infusion into the state budget. The fiscal hawks believe that is speculative. The Times-Picayune reported Thursday that the hospital was appraised for slightly under $21 million.
• The use of one-time money to balance the budget.
The latter has been the biggest issue of disagreement between the fiscal hawks and the governor.
Talbot went so far as to call the budget a ‘‘revenue shell game.’’
There’s both short-term and long-range implications should Caldwell weigh in that the current budget is unconstitutional, particularly in the matter of the use of one-time money to balance it.
Barring further litigation, that could set off another round of deep budget cuts for public hospitals and higher education in Louisiana. Long-term, though, it would likely bring a more sensible approach to how the state’s budget is crafted annually.
Caldwell is not compelled to offer an opinion.
Nevertheless, questions abound and the sooner there’s some clarity, the better.
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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.