Proposals seek to limit Jindal's use of patchwork funding

By By Jim Beam / American Press

BATON ROUGE — Rep. Brett Geymann of Moss Bluff said he was encouraged here Monday when the House Appropriations Committee

sent four state budget reform bills to the full House.

Geymann is a key player in a group of Republican lawmakers dubbed “Fiscal Hawks” who think the Legislature needs to play a

stronger role in how state budgets are planned and financed. The governor submits a proposed budget to legislators, it is

often changed by the House and then restored to pretty much its original form by the state Senate.

Conservative legislators have

criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budgets because they rely too heavily on

one-time money and on

revenues that are contingent on some future action. The net

result, they say, is mid-year budget cuts to state agencies and

hard-pressed higher education and health care institutions.

Geymann said the changes will “put everything on the table and there would be no more accounting gimmicks.” He added there

would also be fewer mid-year budget cuts.

Voting on the budget early would also give legislators more time to debate and to override vetoes while still in session,

he said. Lawmakers have always been reluctant to come back to Baton Rouge for veto sessions.

House Bill 434 by Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, requires separate spending bills — one for revenues over which the Legislature

has control and another for funds that are dedicated to certain budget areas.

Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, is

sponsor of HB 435 that outlines the responsibilities of the Revenue

Estimating Conference.

The conference issues forecasts on expected revenues, and the bill

has the REC define those that are one-time funds. It adds

that the governor’s budget shouldn’t contain revenues dependent on

some future action that may or may not take place.

HB 437 by Rep. Lance Harris,

R-Alexandria, requires the REC’s official forecast of revenues to

include a projection of all

state general funds, self-generated revenues and statutorily

dedicated funds. It would also designate which funds are nonrecurring

(one-time money that won’t be available in future years). 

Geymann is sponsor of HB 620. It

requires a separate nondiscretionary appropriations bill if funding for

health care or higher

education are going to be reduced. He said that would give

legislators an opportunity to consider opening up other areas of

the budget to cuts.

Opponents of the budget changes say the reformed process could end up making it necessary to make even more budget cuts than

have been made in recent years.