Last Modified: Sunday, May 20, 2012 7:02 PMBATON ROUGE — One Southwest Louisiana lawmaker said a bill approved by the House on Thursday is fiscally irresponsible because it allows lawmakers to restore more than $260 million in one-time money to the state budget.
The House voted 63-38 for House Bill 822, by House Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro. The measure takes money from dedicated state funds and includes nearly $70 million in recurring revenue. It heads to the Senate for consideration.
Fannin said he wants to gradually reduce spending of one-time money, but that getting rid of it completely would mean drastic cuts for critical services like health care and higher education.
“On top of all the cuts we’ve had to take the last two years, I’d like for it to be a softer landing than just dropping a bomb,” he said.
Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, said several lawmakers who approved an amendment to strip one-time money from the $25 billion budget in House Bill 1 changed their stance because of “fear and confusion tactics” from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
“We expected the bill to fail, based on what we heard,” Geymann said. “This isn’t the end; we just lost one of the battles. We have a strong core group of people who are willing to stand on this issue and to not budge, despite the pressure from leadership.”
Geymann, along with Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City, said Fannin’s measure was unconstitutional because it takes fees from other sources and turns them into taxes by putting them into the state’s general fund.
One example, Geymann said, is taking money from litter abatement services.
“The people who are paying that dollar for litter abatement are not getting the services they were paying for,” he said.
Geymann, along with several House members, issued a joint news release Wednesday, saying that removing one-time funds would not affect critical services to higher education and health care.
They said the amendment in House Bill 1 reduces higher education staff “through vacant positions and furloughs.”
Voting for the measure were House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, James Armes, D-Leesville, Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles, John Guinn, R-Jennings, and Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek.
Geymann, Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, and Frank Howard, R-Many, opposed the bill.