DALLAS — Debate on Louisiana’s budget for fiscal 2013 hit an impasse Thursday as conservative Republicans objected to fellow GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to use $268 million of one-time revenue to balance the $25 billion spending plan.
Debate on the measure was halted before it began when 50 members voted against bringing the budget bill to the floor, with 51 in favor. House rules require two-thirds approval before considering budgets that include one-time revenues.
Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and the sponsor of HB 1, said the use of the $267.7 million is justified. Without it, he said, important state services would be curtailed.
“We have a responsibility to take the money we have and allocate it in a responsible way,” he told lawmakers. “These are monies that are in the Treasury, and under our control. The Legislature has the authority to manage that money, to appropriate it.”
Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, Jindal’s chief budget aide, said the $25 billion budget contains only $2 billion in discretionary funding, with 80% of that allocated to higher education and public health.
“We presented a budget that protected higher education and health care,” he said in a letter to House members. “As you consider amendments to this budget, the reality is that any additional cuts will be made to higher education and health care services.”
Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, cited a 2008 news release in which the newly elected Jindal criticized his predecessor, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, for using $800 million in one-time revenues in her last budget.
“That is like using your credit card to pay your mortgage,” Jindal said in 2008. “Creating recurring expenditures by spending one-time money is not just fiscal irresponsibility, it is a failure to stand up for the taxpayers we were elected to serve.”
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, also a Republican, issued a statement of support for the efforts to stymie the budget plan.
“I really congratulate House conservatives for standing tall against the use of one-time money to balance the state budget,” he said. “That practice is just kicking the can down the road, the sort of bad spending policy I’m constantly fighting in Washington that creates a real fiscal mess over time.”
Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin dismissed Vitter’s statement. “Sen. Vitter and the Senate in Washington haven’t passed a budget in three years,” Plotkin said. “We encourage him to focus on that.”
Floor action resumed Friday afternoon with consideration of amendments to the budget bill.