The Louisiana Senate Finance Committee has approved a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor, with the consent of the Legislature, to cut the annual budget of state agencies by as much as 10% when revenues fail to meet expenditures. The state constitution currently limits those cuts to 5%, and state law allows total cuts of no more than 5% over two years.

The $28 billion state budget includes $1.9 billion of funds that are constitutionally dedicated, with state laws dedicating another $1.8 billion to specific efforts and departments.

Gov. Bobby Jindal testified in favor of the amendment, noting that under current law the budget cleaver falls mainly on health care and higher education when revenue falls. Eliminating the protected funds would allow cuts to be spread across all agencies, he said.

“For too long people have said we need to do something about this,” Jindal told the lawmakers. “Well, we are doing something about this.”

If the measure is approved by the Legislature, voters would decide on the amendment in October 2010.

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