Lawmakers Use Budget Negotiations to Assert Independence
The legislature’s bipartisan budget negotiations have yielded a late-night preliminary deal, struck after the legislature closed up shop on Monday. The plan will cut tax exemptions and reduce spending to curb the state's dependency on one-time funds.
The deal includes cutting tax exemptions by 15 percent across the board. That will free up $329 million, enough to replace a large chunk of the half a billion in one-time funds in next year’s budget.
The move, which has been in the works since at least last Tuesday, was orchestrated by the democrats and a conservative block of legislators called the fiscal hawks, bucking the Jindal administration.
Rep. Joel Robideaux, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which Monday morning rubber-stamped bills to be used in the deal, said cutting tax exemptions will provide more stability.
"It’s going to get rid of one-time money," said Robideaux, "and we’re not going to have the mid-year budget cut debate every year, every year there happens to be budget deficits.”
During the committee meeting Monday morning, Jindal-appointed Department of Revenue head Tim Barfield discouraged the measures, saying the legislature wasn’t being transparent.
Rep. Robert Johnson responded to Barfield, saying he was calling the kettle black.
“You said you felt out the loop?" Johnson asked. "Well now you know how we feel about just about everything, including the healthcare issues, and the privatization of hospitals and everything and the like. Welcome.”
Johnson was referring to public/private hospital partnerships, being made without the approval of the legislature, that the administration says would save the state money.
The budget will hit the House floor Thursday.