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Louisiana governor, legislature dispute over unilateral budget cuts

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September 30, 2012

Louisiana

By Phil Sletten

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana: Governor Bobby Jindal's administration faces a political challenge from the Louisiana State Legislature over unilateral budget cuts pursued by the Jindal's office. The state legislators are petitioning to call themselves into session, which has never been done under the current state constitution.[1]

The Jindal administration has pursued substantial cuts to the budget since the legislature passed the law and adjourned. Department heads have been unilaterally closing facilities and cutting funding to services, including health services and hospitals.[2] State Representative Dee Richard estimated that the administration had made close to $1 billion in budget cuts since the regular legislative session ended. These cuts, according to Richard, were made "without any input from the Legislature."[1]

Richard and other lawmakers are petitioning to start the process of having a special session, and hope to get enough signers in each chamber to call for a vote, start a new 30-day session and address the budget disputes.[1] Governor Jindal argued that a special session could be costly and is not necessary. When asked, House Speaker Charles Kleckley was also skeptical of the need for a special session.[2]

The state also projected that it would have a $130 million surplus, putting pressure on lawmakers to return and allocate these new funds. The law as written requires surplus revenue to be used to replenish the "rainy day" fund. This law would require a vote from the full legislature to change.[3] The state constitution also restricts which activities can received surplus funding, beyond the rainy day fund, to loan and debt servicing, coastal restoration projects, and construction.[4] Some have argued that this $130 million surplus is reason enough to call a special legislative session, and that the money should go into Medicaid or other areas.[5]

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