DALLAS — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday he would attempt to negotiate a budget dispute that is hampering the state’s efforts to deal with a revenue shortfall in fiscal 2010.
The disagreement between the House and the Senate involves how fast to refill the budget stabilization fund after taking $198 million from it to help overcome a $319 million gap.
The rainy-day fund is currently at its constitutional maximum of some $800 million.
Lawmakers can use only up to $198 million in this fiscal year due to constitutional restrictions.
Jindal said budget deadlocks are a normal aspect of the legislative process, but vowed the situation would be resolved without the need for a special session. The regular session is to end by June 21.
“We are absolutely going to get a budget done this session,” the Republican governor said. “I think it’s important for the House and the Senate to continue to talk to each other.”
As a result of the impasse, the House Appropriations Committee has been unable to take action on HB 1, the $24.2 billion general fund budget for fiscal 2011, and HB 1358, which resolves the fiscal 2010 shortfall with money from several sources.
Both chambers agree on drawing down the fund in fiscal 2010. The House wants to reimburse the fund in fiscal 2011, which begins July 1. The Senate wants to wait to reimburse it until state revenues return to their post-Hurricane Katrina high of fiscal 2008.
The Revenue Estimating Committee met Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to certify enough revenue to satisfy the fiscal 2010 shortfall, but adjourned without taking action after legislative leaders could not agree.
The conference must certify state revenues before the Legislature can appropriate the money.
The conference consists of House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, Senate President Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, economist Jim Richardson of Louisiana State University, and Commissioner of Administration Angèle Davis, who is Jindal’s chief budget officer.
The conference was slated to approve the $198 million of rainy-day funds, $232 million from a tax-amnesty program, and $76 million of surplus from fiscal 2009 that Jindal wants to use to pay down existing state tax-supported debt.
However, Tucker balked at certifying the amnesty money and Chaisson refused to certify the rainy-day funds. Action by the conference requires unanimous approval.
Tucker promised that the budget bills would be passed by the House and sent to the Senate by the end of next week if Chaisson would vote to recognize the money available in the rainy-day fund.
“Recognize the money and the thing moves forward, Joel,” Tucker said.
Chaisson refused to do that unless Tucker would agree to delay reimbursing the fund.
“Mr. Speaker, I’m going to ask you not to hold this process hostage,” Chaisson said.
The fiscal 2010 revenue shortfall may be more than the $319 million determined by the conference in April due to an unexpected drop in income tax collections.
Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, said total fiscal 2010 revenue might be $100 million less than April’s revised forecast.
“It seems unlikely that we’re going to meet the current forecast,” he said.