Coastal Restoration Fund Maneuver Used to Balance Budget
“There’s no one-time money for recurring expenditures in the budget,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols guaranteed from the start of this year’s budget process. Yet as the House Appropriations Committee worked to modify and approve Governor Jindal’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, the secret behind “no one-time money” was revealed.
It’s the Coastal Restoration Fund. Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin says the state is using it “as a bank”.
“We’re not spending any coastal dollars in this,” Fannin told his committee. “All we did was put money into the Coastal Fund as one-time money; take out money in the Coastal as recurring dollars.”
Fannin said this “cleans up” 51-million budget dollars.
“There were available recurring dollars in Coastal, so they were just swapped out,” he explained
Covington Representative John Schroder wasn’t quite sure he had heard right.
“So we’re puttin’ it in, but we’re not spending extra money on the coast?” Schroder asked.
“The money that we’d be putting into Coastal would not be for coastal use,” Fannin said. “It would only be put in to be taken out.”
Schroder wasn’t pleased with using the pass-through maneuver.
“Let’s be perfectly clear. There’s a lot of us in the Legislature who don’t like this practice of putting money in and moving it out,” Schroder said, then asked, “How many years in a row has money been put into the account and taken out?”
The Legislative Fiscal Office looked it up, and said it’s been standard operating procedure for the past six years, throughout Governor Jindal’s entire administration.
Two separate bills—HB 490 by Lake Charles Representative Brett Geymann and HB 1026 by Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin—would prohibit these types of pass-through maneuvers in the future. Both measures are awaiting action on the House floor.
Meanwhile, the Appropriations Committee approved the budget bill. The full House is set to debate it May 8.