Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Monday, April 28, 2014 6:03 PM
When it comes to Louisiana’s state budget, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more principled voice for sound practices than state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff.
He’s been a vocal critic of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s use of non-recurring funds to balance the budget. His latest effort, HB 490, seeks to prevent a governor and state legislators from into dipping into the Budget Stabilization Fund, aka the Rainy Day Fund, and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund.
Jindal has repeatedly drawn down the Rainy Day Fund to balance the state budget. According to the Louisiana Budget Project, the Legislature must come up with $356 million by July 1, 2016, to replenish money that has taken from the Rainy Day Fund during Jindal’s tenure. That won’t be a worry for Jindal, whose term ends at Dec. 31, 2015.
The governor’s 2014-2015 budget also calls for $51 billion in one-time money to be taken from the coastal fund and plugged into the general budget.
Geymann calls this nothing short of money laundering. He’s found an ally in State Treasurer John Kennedy, who has also been a consistent critic of Jindal’s budget shenanigans.
“When lawmakers set up this trust fund, it was meant to be a tool to protect Louisiana’s coastline, not a way to launder money to balance the state’s budget,” said Kennedy. “Rep. Geymann’s legislation would put an end to this devious practice and force the state to make tough decisions when it comes to spending taxpayer’s money.”
Louisiana’s Constitution prohibits the use of one-time funds to pay for recurring expenses, but Jindal has used the trick of shuffling non-recurring money into the coastal fund, then pulling it back out.
“It’s time to put an end to the practice of using questionable accounting methods to patch holes in the state’s budget,” said Kennedy. “HB 490 will force state leaders to take a hard look at the real problem, which continues to be over-spending. This year’s budget relies on $1 billion in one-time funds, meaning legislators will have to fill a $1 billion hole next budget year. HB 490 will force the state to address its addiction to spending head on, but without it, these bad habits will continue.”
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously passed Geymann’s bill, which forbids the use of money from either fund for anything other than intended purpose.
House and Senate approval would send a clear message that the state Constitution is not to be ignored and these shady money tricks need to stop.