Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal last week said he supports a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to cut the Legislature’s annual appropriations to state agencies up to 10% if needed to balance the budget.

The state constitution currently limits the governor to cutting 5% of the agency budgets over two years, which Jindal said means the state is forced to cut allocations to hospitals and higher education to avoid deficits.

More than 50% of allocations from the $9.7 billion general fund cannot be cut. The remaining $4.4 billion — most of which goes to higher education and health care — must bear the brunt of budget cuts, Jindal said.

The governor said he supported bills introduced by Senate President Joel Chaisson to expand the governor’s budget-cutting powers, but they must be approved by a two-thirds majority in each chamber and a majority of the electorate to become effective.

However, House Speaker Jim Tucker said lawmakers would be reluctant to expand the governor’s budget powers.

“It’s the Legislature that has the appropriations authority,” Tucker said in a presentation to the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Jindal also wants all state statutory and dedicated funds to expire on July 1, 2010, with any additional terms to be limited to four years.

The state constitution protects 33 funds and another 358 funds are sheltered by state law.

The governor said these changes have been talked about for years, but now action is needed.

“I’m here to tell you that someday is here,” Jindal said at a news conference at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “The time is now for these reforms.”

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