DALLAS - Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal challenged lawmakers at Monday's opening legislative session to shrink state government to fit an era of lower revenues.
At several points in his 18-minute speech, Jindal said the state would have to "do more with less."
"You saw last year we had to make mid-year budget reductions of $341 million dollars," he said. "We have $1.3 billion fewer dollars this year as we put together this year's budget, as we continue to work hard to move our state forward even while we have to do more with less. We don't have a moment to spare to help our state reach its full potential."
The regular legislative session must conclude no later than June 26.
The governor has proposed a $26.7 billion operating budget for fiscal 2010 that reflects declining revenue from taxes on oil and gas production as well as other sources.
Lawmakers will consider Jindal's proposed budget that would cut millions from health care and higher education. That has drawn criticism from lawmakers and university officials.
Students from several Louisiana colleges staged a "Black Monday" protest of the cuts, which featured a large paper-mache shark, at the capitol in Baton Rouge before the opening session.
The executive budget does not incorporate any tax increases, Jindal said, and he urged legislators to maintain the tax cuts agreed to at the 2008 session.
"There are no easy fixes," he said. "We can't tax, borrow, spend our way out of this. We're going to have to work hard together to do more with less."
However, House speaker pro tempore Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, said she intends to go ahead with hearings on her proposal to raise the state tax on a package of cigarettes by $1 to fund health care.
"We differ in opinions on how to fix problems," she said at a news conference following Jindal's address.
Peterson said the tax hike would generate more than $200 million a year to finance an expansion of home-care services.
House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, said he expected vigorous debate on the governor's proposed budget for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1.
"Being short on money always brings a different dynamic," he said. "It causes people to rigorously defend things they think are important."
Jindal said higher education and health care took the brunt of budget cuts because statutory or constitutional provisions ban reductions for many other programs.
Programs and dedications should expire on a regular basis so lawmakers can decide whether the funding protections should be removed or continued, he said.
"You should have greater flexibility to work with the administration to achieve savings," Jindal said. "Every agency, every program across the board should have to compete for those resources so we don't continue to have to go to higher education and health care - two areas we need to be investing in to continue to move our state forward.
"We're asking for your help. We know that there are literally billions of dollars that are protected either by statute or constitution."