Louisiana legislators seek legal opinion on budget constitutionality
By Phil Sletten
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana: State Representative Kirk Talbot (R) wrote a letter to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell requesting that his office evaluate the constitutionality of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal's state budget, which uses one-time money to help close the gap between projected revenues and spending allocations. The letter, which was signed by 18 other members of the Louisiana House of Representatives, suggests that the budget revenue projections were reliant on the assumption that other pieces of legislation would pass and that they were inflated by counting on revenue that was very unlikely to materialize, including the sale of state assets.
The Louisiana Constitution prohibits budgeting more spending than revenue projections suggest are available, effectively requiring a balanced budget and no deficit spending. Despite this requirement, the recent Louisiana budget allocated $240 million more in expenses from the general fund than the official revenue forecast projected for the general fund. Governor Jindal's administration argues that the budget gap would actually be closed through other means, including $35 million in revenue from the lease or sale of the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital. However, Talbot and others argue that the Constitution also does not permit the closing of budget holes with legislative actions not included in the initial budget itself.
The nineteen legislators who signed the letter are part of the Louisiana Budget Reform Campaign, which is a coalition of politicians, business leaders, and civic leaders that State House Representative Brett Geymann (R) began organizing in summer 2012 as a vessel for concerns over the budget-making process. This group overlaps with those conservative lawmakers in the Louisiana House of Representatives sometimes called "the fiscal hawks." These lawmakers expressed their general support for Governor Jindal in a video on the Louisiana Budget Reform Campaign's website, but came out against him on the issue of building the budget.
The letter was also signed by Representatives John Berthelot, Thomas Carmody, Jr., Ray Garofalo, Cameron Henry, Brett Geymann, Hunter Greene, Lance Harris, Joe Harrison, Nancy Landry, Nicholas Lorusso, Sherman Mack, Greg Miller, James Morris, J. Rogers Pope, Jerome Richard, Clay Schexnayder, John Schroder, and Alan Seabaugh.
- Louisiana House of Representatives
- Louisiana State Legislature
- Governor of Louisiana
- Attorney General of Louisiana
- Louisiana Constitution
- The Times-Picayune, "Constitutionality of Louisiana budget request for attorney general's opinion," November 19, 2012
- The Times-Picayune, "Louisiana representatives question constitutionality of state budget, ask for attorney general's opinion," November 19, 2012
- The Times-Picayune, "Legislator organizing budget overhaul coalition for 2013 session," July 18, 2012
- Louisiana Budget Reform Campaign, accessed November 29, 2012