DALLAS — Gov. Bobby Jindal reiterated his stance against new taxes to balance Louisiana’s fiscal 2012 budget Monday at the opening of the regular legislative session.
The state is facing a revenue shortfall of $1.6 billion between expected income and current spending levels, but Jindal said increasing revenue by raising taxes is not an option.
Higher taxes would result in lost economic opportunities and fewer private-sector jobs, Jindal told lawmakers. He promised to veto any new taxes proposed by the Legislature.
“Tax increases hurt economic development,” the Republican governor said. “Tax increases hurt our ability to attract new businesses into Louisiana.”
Jindal said his executive budget would protect higher education, public education, and health care programs from spending cuts, but he provided few details on the $24.9 billion spending plan for fiscal 2012.
The proposed budget spends $1.12 billion less than in fiscal 2011, which ends July 30.
The spending plan resolves the revenue shortfall with $1 billion of cuts and $474 million of one-time revenue.
Paul Rainwater, Jindal’s director of administration and chief budget officer, said spending supported by one-time revenues includes $57 million of one-time expenses and $417 million of recurring expenses.
The proposed state budget includes $11 billion of federal funds.
Jindal’s budget calls for the sale of three state prisons to raise $86 million and for privatizing a portion of the state employee health insurance program, but he did not discuss those proposals during his 21-minute speech.
Democratic lawmakers criticized Jindal’s lack of specifics during the address.
Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, objected to what she said was the governor’s focus on federal budget issues. Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, said Jindal’s remarks resembled a campaign speech.
House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, said some of the governor’s budget proposals will be a hard sell in the Legislature.
“There’s a lot of work to be done on the budget,” Tucker said. “We’re going to work with the administration on trying to get a balanced budget.”
At a news conference on Tuesday, Jindal said he would not push for consideration of any of his budget measures until the Revenue Estimating Conference meets to revise the outlook for fiscal 2012 and the remainder of fiscal 2011.
“I’m not asking that this legislation be moved within the next couple of weeks until the REC meets,” he said. “If they find more revenue is available, it could displace some of the funding in the budget for health care.”
The Revenue Estimating Conference in early March raised its expectations of fiscal 2012 revenues to $8.26 billion, an increase of $65.8 million from the previous forecast, and to $7.83 billion in fiscal 2011, an increase of $112.2 million.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Jindal said state government must become leaner and more efficient in spending tax dollars.
“The status quo is unacceptable,” he said. “This is about changing the status quo. We have to do more with less.”