state budget

State lawmakers refused to approve part of the Jindal administration’s plan for balancing the current budget Friday, making it clear they’re fed up with sweeps of dedicated funds.

“Somebody, sooner or later, has got to stand up and say we’ve got to stop this,” Sen. Robert Adley of Benton remonstrated with the Joint Budget Committee and representatives of the Division of Administration.

Adley, a Republican, chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and he took great issue with part of the budget-balancing plan to grab $6-million from gasoline taxes — which are dedicated to building and maintaining roads — and shuffle that money to State Police.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee meets today to vote on the governor’s plan for slicing $103-million from current year spending.

“These mid-year cuts are critical,” House Speaker Chuck Kleckley says of the painful necessity.

State officials have been burning up the phone lines between Baton Rouge and New York City this week, trying to stave off the threatened downgrade of Louisiana’s credit rating. State Treasurer John Kennedy says it’s been intense.

“We’re in trouble. I don’t want to overstate that, but I don’t want to sugarcoat it, either,” Kennedy says. “We’re in trouble with two of the three rating agencies. Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have told us unless we get our fiscal affairs in order, they’re going to downgrade us.”

Statewide elected officials believe the Jindal administration’s budget ax must have become dull from overuse, since the latest round of proposed cuts are far from even.

“The cuts seem to be disproportionate,” Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne observes.

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says the mid-year budget cuts proposed last week by the Jindal administration could end up costing you more at the grocery store and elsewhere.

“You know, if we downsize in meat inspection, that means plants will close,” Strain warns. And meat prices will go up.

The Department of Agriculture has been told to cut $2.6-million from its spending between now and June 30, and Strain says that means he will have no choice but to reduce the number of inspectors his department employs.

 Since it’s an election year, it’s highly unlikely that lawmakers will risk the wrath of voters or the governor by raising taxes to fill Louisiana’s $1.6-billion budget hole. But they will almost certainly be taking a hard look at state tax breaks to bridge the budget gap.

Finding the way down off the fiscal cliff could be as simple as turning around, and looking back at the path that brought us here.

“The root of our current budget problems goes back to the decision in 2008, under Gov. Jindal, to repeal the Stelly tax changes that voters passed in 2002,” says Louisiana Budget Project director Jan Moller. “That has taken about six to seven hundred million dollars our of our tax base every year.”

“Prices at the pump don’t seem to have a bottom yet.” Legislative Fiscal Analyst Greg Albrecht says while that’s good for consumers, it’s very bad for the state budget.

Louisiana’s budget gap for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2015 has widened by $400-million due to declining oil royalties and severance taxes — directly attributable to the fall in oil prices.


“We need to appreciate what we’re saying when we say those words,” LSU economist Jim Richardson admonishes, as Louisiana is standing on the edge of a fiscal cliff.

“We simply do not have enough,” Richardson states.

It has not been a terrific few weeks for state finances.

Oil revenues dropped. And then a $180 million hole appeared in the state budget.

Melinda Deslatte, AP reporter on the state budget beat, explains how Gov. Bobby Jindal plans to close the gap.