Rep. Geymann discusses state budget reform

By By John Guidroz / American Press

Since the legislative session wrapped up in June, Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, said he and other legislators have focused

on reforming the state’s budget process and have traveled across the state to talk about the effort.

“We have been meeting with stakeholder

groups and business leaders,” Geymann said Wednesday. “It has been

remarkable the response

we got in those meetings. We’re listening to them about how it

relates to their industry.”

Geymann — who sits on the House

Appropriations Committee — formed a group in July so lawmakers could

work on creating a spending

plan that is more fiscally responsible. He said he has talked

about the budget with groups like the Council for A Better Louisiana

and the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.

Geymann said the group plans to present

the Legislature with a package of constitutional amendments that will

hopefully make

the budget process more transparent, lessen the reliance on

one-time funds, and prioritize funding for health care and higher

education. The next legislative session begins in April.

“It’s a work in progress; there’s a lot of moving parts to it,” he said. “We’re just focused on getting the message out to

stakeholder groups.”

Health care

Geymann said he was frustrated that lawmakers were not included in the discussion about specific cuts to the LSU Health Care

System and the university-run hospitals, including W.O. Moss Regional Medical Center.

“The end result may be the same, but we needed a seat at the table earlier, rather than after the fact,” he said.

The American Press reported Oct. 4 that 11 Moss Regional employees will be laid off by Oct. 15. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration decided to

cut the LSU Health Care System budget by $210 million.

“The whole general way this has come down is frustrating to me as a legislator,” Geymann said. “We haven’t been involved in

the decision making as to where the cuts would take place.”

Surplus money

Geymann said he believes the $130 million in surplus money should be put back into the state’s “rainy day” fund, even though

members of the Jindal administration believe it should be used elsewhere.

“It’s crystal clear that money should be deposited into that account,” he said.

Last month, Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, said the surplus for the fiscal year that ended

June 30 happened largely because business tax collections were higher than expected.

Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said he wants to use the money to offset cuts to the state’s Medicaid program,

in an effort to prevent more cuts to the LSU health system.

But a law passed during the recent

legislative session requires the money to go into the “rainy day” fund

to pay back money

that was used to fund a deficit from last year. The bill was

sponsored by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, and it requires using

up to $204.7 million to replenish the fund.

Fannin, who heads the House Appropriations Committee, said the money should go back into the fund. But the Jindal administration

argues that the law applies to money acknowledged before the fiscal year ended.

Special session

Geymann said he supports the November special session proposed by Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard, I-Thibodaux, despite opposition

from House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.

The proposal requires backing from 35 House members and 13 senators. That would lead to a formal petitioning of the Legislature.

It would then require a majority in each chamber — 53 House members and 20 in the Senate — to call a special session.

If approved, the session would begin Nov. 26 and could last up to 15 days.