State budget comes together through compromise

By By Jim Beam / American Press

BATON ROUGE — Legislators completed action on 10 separate bills here Thursday that it took to fashion a compromise $25 billion

state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The work was completed just over an hour before the mandatory 6 p.m. final adjournment of the 2013 fiscal session. Lawmakers

wrapped up shortly after 5 p.m.

Gov. Bobby Jindal spoke briefly to the Senate. He said he wanted to thank lawmakers for the productive session they had that

benefits the people of Louisiana.

House Bill 1, the state spending plan for the new year, was the cornerstone of the compromise made possible by a coalition

of Republicans, Democrats and members of the Legislative Black Caucus. It was approved 104-0 in the House and 38-1 in the

Senate.

Both the House and Senate helped forge the final product, which legislative veterans said was the first time in recent history

the Legislature played the predominant role in writing the final state budget.

Jindal put his blessing on the compromise the evening before, which made it easier to get almost unanimous support for the

10 bills in the complete package.

Republican conservatives called “fiscal hawks” got three budget reform measures they wanted, Democrats got financial support

for public education and the Black Caucus got budget changes it promoted.

One of the reform bills is a lower state expenditure limit. The goal is to curb state spending when excess funds come into

the treasury. 

The current expenditure limit is $15.7 billion, and House Concurrent Resolution 6 by Reps. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, and

Jim Morris, R-Oil City, reduced that to $12.9 billion.

A second bill requires the Revenue Estimating Conference to better distinguish one-time money from recurring funds when it

makes revenue forecasts.

The third measure by Geymann requires that dedicated and non-dedicated funds be separated in the budget if higher education

and health care funding are reduced.

A tax amnesty program that legislators hope will raise $200 million for the new budget was also approved.

Reform of the Enterprise Zone and Quality Jobs programs is expected to generate additional revenues, along with a reduction

in the amount paid to vendors for collecting state sales taxes.

The budget bill also required the transfer of $199 million in various state funds to balance the spending plan.

House Bill 2, the state construction bill, also figured into the compromise. It was one of the last pieces of legislation

to be approved.

House Concurrent Resolution 188 requests the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education boost the Minimum Foundation

Program that funds public schools by 2.75 percent a year.