DALLAS — Louisiana lawmakers gave final approval late Tuesday to a $25 billion budget for fiscal 2012 that relies on more than $200 million of fund transfers and reallocations to balance next year’s spending plan.
The budget, which goes into effect July 1, cuts $1.5 billion from state expenditures in fiscal 2011.
The House sent the measure to Gov. Bobby Jindal by unanimously endorsing the Senate budget plan that restored spending cuts by the House
Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, sponsor of the HB 1 budget measure, said the plan reflected tough economic times.
“We have an instrument today that meets our needs,” he said. “It does not meet our wants.”
Fannin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, did not allow members to offer amendments that would earmark state funds for specific projects in their districts. He said dealing with a projected revenue shortfall of $1.6 billion next year required a tight budget.
The budget cuts 3,500 state positions, and keeps aid to local education at the same level as the past two years.
Public education is allocated $3.4 billion in fiscal 2012, which includes per-pupil payments to local districts of $3,855.
Jindal said HB 1 was “a great budget for Louisiana,” noting that it avoids significant spending reductions to important state obligations.
“This is a budget that protects education, protects health care, protects public safety, and allows us to move forward with economic development initiatives,” Jindal said.
The budget was balanced in the Senate through fund transfers, including $25 million set aside for construction projects, and the shifting of $59 million of federal hurricane recovery payments.
Jindal submitted a proposed budget to the Legislature in April, but the House balked at the use of $449 million of one-time revenues, including the sale of three prisons and revamping the state employee pension plan.
The House in late May adopted a rule, which Jindal opposed, that cut the available revenue by $93 million. The rule requires a two-thirds majority to appropriate more than $356 million of one-time revenues for continuing expenses.
Rep. John Bel Edwards, the leader of the Democratic minority in the House, said the revised budget bill approved by the House on a unanimous vote does not rely on potential dollars that might be generated with proposed prison sales or other uncertain income streams.
“There are no contingent dollars in the budget,” he said. “There’s no smoke and mirrors. It is an honest-to-God balanced budget.”
Jindal outlined an executive budget in December 2010 that called for generating $250 million by issuing bonds supported by future lottery earnings and $400 million through the sale and lease-back of state office buildings in Baton Rouge.
However, no legislation was offered by the Jindal administration to authorize the bonds or lease the office buildings.
Louisiana’s general obligation debt is rated AA by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, and Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service.