Rep. Wesley Bishop, left, D-New Orleans, congratulates Rep. Jim Fannin, center, D-Jonesboro, in the House chamber after Fannin's state budget bill HB1 was approved by House members Sunday at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Patrick Goldsmith, director of the House Fiscal Division, is at right. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 11:34 AM
BATON ROUGE — The House had little difficulty here Sunday giving final legislative approval to a $25.6 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and voting to withdraw $204.7 million from the state’s rainy day fund to shore up the current year’s budget.
The Senate earlier voted 39-0 for the House budget that it rewrote and 37-0 to dip into the rainy day fund.
House members were voting on a budget much different from the one they sent to the Senate. It went to the upper chamber without $268 million in one-time money, along with a list from which budget cuts could be made.
One-time money means revenues that can’t be counted on from year to year to fund ongoing state expenses.
Senators added more than $350 million to next year’s budget, and that included the one-time money the House had cut. They decided the cuts suggested by the House would be too harmful to health care and higher education.
Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, was one of the leaders of a group of Republican fiscal conservatives who said use of one-time money is creating difficult budget cuts during the following year. They spoke against the Senate’s budget proposal, but didn’t have the numbers to derail the spending plan.
The vote to go along with the Senate changes was 62-40. Voting to approve the budget were House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, and Reps. James Armes, D-Leesville; Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles; Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings; and Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek.
Against were Reps. Geymann; Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville; and Frank Howard, R-Many.
Use of the rainy day fund requires a two-thirds vote (70) and it was approved 73-28. Kleckley, Armes, Danahay, Franklin, Guinn, Hensgens and Hill voted to use the savings. Geymann and Howard were against.
Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, handled House Bill 1, the budget bill. He is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Fannin said he had hoped state revenues would have come back, but sales and income taxes were lower than expected.
“There was some growth, but not like we expected,” Fannin said.
He said the state has given away too many dollars in the form of tax credits and tax rebates and it is important this year to use one-time money.
Geymann spoke against going along with the Senate changes to the budget. He said scare tactics had been used to justify use of those funds. The cuts recommended by the GOP conservatives are some of the same ones suggested by the former government streamlining commission, he said.
Geymann said the Senate is saying the House staff that helped his group come up with suggested budget cuts doesn’t know what it’s doing, and that simply isn’t true.
“We can fix this problem. Quit throwing us under the bus with intimidation,” he said. “Take a stand and let’s fix the problem.”
Only two of the House Democrats voted against the Senate version of the budget — Reps. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, and Jerry “Truck” Gisclair, D-Larose.
Edwards called the budget “the worst, most irresponsible document ever put forth.” He was also critical of the loss of nearly a billion dollars in corporate taxes.
“We continue to live beyond our means and give our means away,” Edwards said.